green friend or evil planetary enemy?


Once upon a time, wall-to-wall carpet was unheard of and no one needed to answer the question of which is greener, carpeting, or hard surfaces. Then came the advent of wider looms and mass production and suddenly, every floor was covered in carpet. Current trends go back and forth on the subject, but let’s set aside aesthetics and look at the eco-friendly side of the room.

Most people add area rugs to non-carpeted spaces to help soften and define the space. Plus they make floor sitting much more user friendly. A good carpet adds warmth, color, and comfort. It will also provide a sound buffer and insulate against temperature fluctuation. With modern production methods, it is far less expensive to install than hardwood or tile flooring.

On a less carpet-friendly note, a wall-to-wall set up is harder to clean than area rugs and you would be amazed at the amount of dust, dander and other allergens a carpet can hold onto, even with a good vacuum. On the icky side, carpet is a prime environment for pests like dust mites and if it gets wet, can harbor mold. It’s difficult to clean, easily stained and can hold onto odors seemingly forever.

There are eco-friendly carpeting options, but their high price tag eliminates one of carpet’s main appeals: low installation cost. When balanced with maintenance over the lifetime of a product, even an eco-friendly wall-to-wall carpet can’t hold a candle to other sustainable flooring options. Considering that around four to five billion pounds of carpet goes into our landfills each year, and there are very few companies that will recycle carpet, and the wall-to-wall stuff is starting to look a little worn.

Carpeting gets another stain on its reputation when it comes to the installation process and padding. Even a carpet made from all-natural, sustainable fibers can be turned into an eco-nightmare with synthetic padding and VOC-ladden adhesives. If you’re opting for installed carpeting, make sure you’re going green from the sub-floor level on up.

If you’ve already got wall-to-wall and it’s looking a little worse for the wear, but isn’t quite ready for replacement, consider patching. A professional carpet repairer can extend the life of your carpet by mending, patching, refringing, reweaving and even dying your old carpets. When it comes time to dispose of the old stuff, check out CARE (Carpet America Recovery Effort) to find a recycling center that can handle carpet.

A little research and it’s easy to see that wall-to-wall carpet just doesn’t pass green muster. If going carpet-free just isn’t right for you, do some digging and find an installer that offers greener, VOC-free options and consider carpet tiles instead of wall-to-wall. There are some great new carpet tile products that are made from recycled carpets. Plus, the tiles have the advantage of being easier to replace damaged, stained or worn sections without the expense, hassle and waste of wall-to-wall carpet. Otherwise, opt for some other form of sustainable flooring and use eco-friendly area rugs to soften and define your spaces.

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