Is it possible to choose carpet as flooring and still be environmentally-responsible? Is there such a thing as a “green carpet”? This is a controversial issue that has been debated at length. For some there is confusion over what actually constitutes a “green” carpet. A lot obviously depends on the material it is made from – but even among carpets made of the same material, there can be a great variation in the “green” status depending on how the carpet is installed, what it is treated with and even how it is cleaned.
There is very little doubt that conventional synthetic carpets are very bad for you and the environment. These carpets consist of fibres that are generally made up of synthetic petroleum compounds such as acrylic, nylon, polyester and poluypropyelen and furthermore, they are usually backed by synthetic materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyurethane or synthetic SB latex. All of these ingredients are non-sustainable, as well as involving significant energy consumption and pollution in their production. In addition, their synthetic “durability” means that they do no decompose or biodegrade, so that they remain in landfill sites, releasing further toxins into the environment, for decades to come.
Synthetic carpets may also be harmful to you and your family’s health, as well as that of the environment. For example, over 90% of conventional carpets use SB latex which contains a toxin called styrene which may well be carcinogenic. Similarly, PVC has often been the subject of health controversies and in fact, several of its components are now being banned from children’s toys in Europe.
Even if the fibres and backing materials do not contain a specific suspected toxin, the fact that these carpets are often heavily treated with fungicides, fire retardants, dyes, stainproofing and anti-static measures means that they may be continually giving off fumes of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s)and other potentially harmful chemicals. Furthermore, conventional carpet installation involves the use of adhesives which are usually full of these harsh chemicals and VOC’s again.
Some have suggested that by installing modular carpet tiles instead of floor-to-floor carpeting, this will present less of a negative impact on the environment as small sections can be replaced as opposed to the entire sheet. However, it must be noted that while this is an improvement, it is still not solving the problems of environmental sustainability and pollution.
Some “Green Carpet” Options
With a bit of research and planning, as well as perhaps a slightly greater financial investment, it is possible to have a “green carpet”.
All of these “green carpet” options are generally more expensive than standard synthetic carpet but when you consider the cost to your health and to the environment, it may well be worth the extra investment.