How Green Is It Really???

Wood Flooring

On a scale of 1 to 10, How Green are the following floor coverings?

                       Bamboo           Cork                Engineered           Imported         Domestic          Sustainable
Local Source          1                  2                         1                          2                    6                      10

Envir. Impact          7                 10                        2                          1                     2                      10

Chemical Use         1                   1                        2                         10                   10                     10

Shipping                 1                   2                        1                          2                      5                     10

Labor Conditions    1                   4                        2                          2                      7                     10

Product Lifetime     2                   2                        4                          10                    10                   10

Appearance           5                    6                       8                            9                      8                    10

Total Score          18                  27                     20                          38                    48                   70


Bamboo Flooring:  The claim to fame for Bamboo is that it grows quickly in a field and the forest is preserved.  The drawbacks are high levels of manufacturing are needed to transform this round plant into flat flooring.  Labor conditions are poor, chemical use is high and unregulated.  The uniform appearance of the many small pieces glued together makes this look very different from natural wood flooring.  Transportation costs are high and the lifetime of the covering is relatively short.  Bamboo has good advertisers, does lift pressure from industrial logging of forests, but scores low on our Green scale.

Cork Flooring:  Cork also is touted for its sustainability as no trees are cut down to make this product.  Like Bamboo, small pieces are glued together into sheets in an industrial process using lots of chemicals.  The appearance is unique and the lifetime of the product is relatively short.  Produced in Europe, manufacturing conditions are better than the Far East and shipping is moderate.  Total score - not so Green.

Engineered Flooring:  This is basically plywood - a thin layer of good wood for show is glued to base layers of low value wood.  A wide range of products fall into this category.  Production is now mostly in the Far East though often American logs are used for the top veneer layer, adding to the shipping total.  This flooring is often pre-finished in a distant factory, and out gassing from the varnish & glues are a concern in a home.

Imported Solid Flooring:  The main concern for this product is where was the wood grown and how it was harvested.  Fancy "Trophy Wood" from the rainforest usually results in high levels of environmental damage.   Both selective cutting of just the best trees and clear-cutting - devastate the remaining primary forests.  Wood cut in most countries rarely benefits the local community.  Shipping distance is another cost to this product.   Solid flooring requires much less manufacturing than the above choices and will generally outlast the structure it is installed in. 

Domestic Solid Flooring:  Industrial logging in the U.S. is generally seen as bad for the forest.  Hardwood flooring generally comes from a "High-Grading" harvest where just the good trees are taken, depleting the genetic quality of the forest.  Transportation distances are less and manufacturing is simple.  American jobs are supported and the flooring should outlast the building it is placed in.

Sustainable Solid Flooring:  Some forestry/logging operations are truly sustainable, carefully harvesting just the natural output of the forest.  Locally grown and manufactured forest products have many benefits to the local economy.   Natural flooring that utilizes the whole tree has a wonderful appearance that is chosen by most people who are offered this product.

Please consider these factors when you decide how Green a product is!