Now that the weather is finally starting to feel like spring, we can start going outside and enjoying the outdoors. It reminds us of the importance of protecting nature. Many of our customers have questions about how their flooring affects the environment. Here are three common misconceptions we hear about how wood flooring affects the environment:
1. Hardwood flooring is bad for trees.
Humans have certainly had a negative impact on forests over time. But in recent history, we’ve been doing a much better job at taking care of trees. In the 19th century, many North American forests were heavily depleted, partly by irresponsible logging. At the start of the 20th century, forest conservation policies came to the forefront. US forestland stopped decreasing in 1920 after two centuries of decline. Since the 1940s, forest growth has been exceeding harvest, so we’re actually growing more trees than we are cutting down. Most lumber comes from US and Canadian forests, and both countries comprehensive forestry management policies. Much of the production has switched from harvesting public lands to privately owned and managed forests. These companies have an interest in growing at least as many trees as they cut–it’s how they can continue their business. US forests have more trees now than they’ve had in 100 years, and responsible forestry will help continue that trend.
2. Floors must be certified to be environmentally friendly.
Several different organizations certify flooring on the environmental impact of flooring production or how the flooring effects indoor air quality.
FloorScore and GREENGUARD are independent organizations that certify products by measures the emission level of specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The most common certification to measure VOCs is the California Air Resources Board (CARB) certification. CARB-compliant materials meet tight limites for formaldehyde emissions. Flooring must meet the CARB requirements to be sold in California, so most flooring sold in the US meets these requirements. FloorScore, GREENGUARD, and CARB certificiations do not measure the environmental impact of flooring production.
The Forest Stewardship Council is an international organization that sets criteria for environmental, economic, and social standards. They accredit other groups as certification bodies. There are many different kinds of certification for different parts of production and distribution of products. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, uses a combination of criteria for both environmentally responsible production and air quality control. Many levels of LEED certification are available.
There is no one certification that tells you everything you need to know about a manufacturer’s environmental practices. When purchasing flooring, research the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability and how they implement that in their production process.
3. Bamboo flooring is more environmentally friendly than other wood floors.
Bamboo is advertised as a “green” floor because bamboo plants grows very quickly, while traditional wood flooring species like oak take longer to mature. However, tree growth is just one step of the process. Bamboo is more like a grass than a tree, so it can’t be made into flooring like a traditional hardwood. It is cut into strips and glued together with formaldehyde-based glue, or made into a pulpy mixture with the glue and formed into planks. This also makes bamboo flooring almost impossible to sand and refinish, so once the finish wears, the grass-and-glue mixture will end up in a landfill. Traditional hardwood floors can be refinished to last for centuries.