Several solutions to make your home healthier by choosing eco-friendly carpeting.
Part 2: What’s the solution?
Okay, so in the previous blog post we talked about that “new carpet smell” actually stemming from VOCs, which are a hazard to humans and the environment. Now let’s talk about solutions.
One way to recognize a “green”, or eco-friendly, carpet is to check the label for a small green house icon – this indicates that the carpeting was tested by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Indoor Air Testing Program. The presence of the green house icon means that the product has passed VOC testing, and that the amount of dangerous off-gassing for that product is below industry standards.
What can you do if your existing carpeting is not eco-friendly?
If you already own any carpeting that you suspect may be affecting your health, Co-op America suggests using a nontoxic “green” finish from SafeChoice Carpet Seal, which prevents chemicals from off-gassing for up to five carpet cleanings. An easy way to find out how your carpet or flooring ranks environmentally is by looking it up online in the National Green Pages (www.coopamerica.org/pubs/greenpages).
But if you’re planning to purchase new carpeting, you can eliminate this problem by buying carpeting made from natural fibers with no chemical treatments. It should also have a natural fiber backing that’s been attached with a less toxic adhesive. Carpets that fall into this category include woven wool, natural sisal, seagrass, and jute; also, if the carpet is dyed, it’s preferable that the dye is a natural vegetable dye rather than a chemical dye. Carpeting that is made with minimal natural latex glue is also preferable.
Eco-friendly carpeting doesn’t stop at the carpet itself. When it comes to carpet padding, look for recycled cotton and rag padding – this avoids putting an unrenewable, consumptiveresource back into the environment. Some carpeting comes complete with a lightweight backing, so no additional padding is needed.
Carpet pads made with styrenebutadiene rubber are also hazardous; this type of padding is thicker and “bouncier” than others. Instead, opt for felt padding, which is a trendier choice with today’s Berber rugs and is fine to use with thicker carpeting, like shag, which owes its thickness to its own depth rather than that of the padding underneath.
You can also keep your installation eco-friendly by avoiding chemical-based glues that are linked to health issues. If you can avoid gluing the carpet, opt instead for tacking, which is a safe and easy alternative to using toxic glues. However, carpets that receive exceptionally high wear, such as those used in commercial arenas, may require gluing; in this case, look for water-based, low VOC glues.
20,000 Years of Trashed Carpeting
In order to make your carpet purchase completely eco-friendly, you need to consider what happens to carpeting after it’s disposed of. An incredible 1.8 million tons of carpeting and rugs are taken to local landfills every year, and most of those will last up to 20,000 years. A good alternative is to purchase carpeting from a company that will recycle or donate your old, used carpet. You can find out how and where to recycle old carpets at www.CarpetRecovery.org. Another economical and eco-friendly solution is to use carpet tiles instead of wall-to-wall carpeting so that when a high-traffic area becomes worn, you only need to replace the worn tiles with new ones rather than replacing everything.
Can’t find an eco-friendly carpet you want?
If you can’t settle on an eco-friendly carpet, the next best thing you can do is ask the store to open the carpet roll and air it out for a few days before installation.
In designing my clients’ interiors, I now recommend eco-friendly paints and flooring first over the more toxic choices. If the exact color they want isn’t yet available, a good alternative is to choose the closest available color in an eco-friendly product and then use their exact color choice on draperies and other furnishings. Although not all carpet manufacturers are currently offering eco-friendly carpeting and carpet products, the more consumers demand “green” products, the faster manufacturers will provide what we want and, ultimately, what’s best for us and our environment.