OK, COP 26 wasn’t all we hoped for. We heard a lot of blah blah blah and who knows whether what’s agreed will be enough?
So maybe if we all try harder to live and shop thoughtfully, we could help make up some of the shortfall. Here’s how to do that when choosing a new hard floor.
3 earth-friendly ways to have beautiful floors at home.
We’ve compared three things:
- First, CO2 – how much is emitted (or not) while the raw materials grow.
- Second – recycling. Can the floor be recycled? Is it already made from recycled materials? If so, what proportion?
- Third – weight. How much dirty old diesel gets used transporting the floor – from factory to wholesaler to retailer to you? Lighter floors use less, obvs.
AND THE WINNER IS………
1. CORK FLOORS
Hands down, cork is the most sustainable hard floor. Better than bamboo, better than hardwood, better than just about anything.
Why? Well, cork is the bark of the cork oak tree – totally natural and harvested every nine years without cutting the tree down. Watch cork harvesting here.
Save over a tonne of CO2
While it’s growing, cork removes CO2 from the atmosphere. Tonnes and tonnes of it. This means that if you fit a cork floor in an average sized room at home, you would actually have helped to remove over a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere!
But how about recycling? Roughly 10% of most cork floors are recycled cork – old wine corks or old cork floors, usually. And, of course, at the end of its life a cork floor is itself recyclable.
Weight? Cork has air bubbles in it, which makes it lighter than almost any other hard floor and less fuel-hungry when being transported.
Intrigued? Check out our beautiful All-Cork floors here
2. CORK-LAMINATE FLOORS
Some cork floors aren’t all cork. They’re laminates of cork and vinyl, combining the warmth and resilience of cork with plastic for hard wear in tough environments.
Yes, the plastic is a problem – it’s a fossil fuel by-product, which is the reason that conventional vinyl flooring will never appear in a sustainability list like this.
BUT the cork in a cork-laminate floor more than offsets the vinyl. Your average domestic cork-laminated floor has still prevented half a tonne of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Recycling? The cork is fine, of course, and, increasingly, the vinyl may also be re-processed material – sometimes from old floors, but more often from old shoes or bottles.
Weight – again, it’s a bit of a compromise compared to our No 1 floor, but a cork-laminate floor will always weigh less and travel lighter than 100% vinyl.
Want to know more? Browse our beautiful cork floors here.
3. Equal. BAMBOO and HARDWOOD
Both these raw materials are natural and remove CO2 from the atmosphere while growing.
For both floor types, the plant or tree must be completely cut down, which is why regrowth time is important.Bamboo grows faster – it’s actually a type of grass and grows to a harvestable size in about 5 years. Hardwood takes longer – maturity takes anything between 15 and 70 years, depending on the tree species.
If you choose oak, for example, you’re accepting a multi-decade gap before the tree and its full CO2-saving magic can be replaced.
Bamboo is better in this respect, but its advantage is reduced a bit by the additional processing that bamboo requires to become a floor, compared to wood.
Recycling? Old wood is often turned into biomass and burned for heating. This is better than burning coal, but still not that great an idea because the CO2 that the wood or bamboo absorbed while growing is all released to atmosphere. However, using old timber (or floors) to make biomass is better than growing new trees and cutting them down for this purpose.
Weight? Bamboo is lighter than hardwood, so transporting it is more fuel-efficient.
The conclusion? Both bamboo and hardwood floors are effectively carbon-neutral. You won’t hurt the planet by choosing either one, but you could actively help the planet by choosing cork in one of its forms instead.
Browse our beautiful cork floor styles and colours here.