There are worse things in life than having a kitchen with old, warn, cheap-looking linoleum that’s separating in certain spots. Yes, linoleum is often made with plastic, not carbon neutral, not recyclable and therefore not sustainable. But was the linoleum in our kitchen actually Marmoleum — a type of green flooring made of all-natural materials like wood flour, jute, linseed oil, and other organic products? 

Forbo, a company making significant environmental efforts, specializes in manufacturing Marmoleum so natural it’s actually edible. In its environmental statements, Forbo suggests many of the natural materials in Marmoleum are recycled. And Architectural Digest suggests linoleum, albeit linoleum from non-plastic materials, is making a comeback — partly for environmental reasons.

We weren’t sure what type of linoleum we had. And unfortunately, it appeared to have lived out its life either way. 

Reusing and recycling – from an environmental perspective – is better than chucking and buying. But we couldn’t figure out how to brighten up a floor that looked pretty used and shabby already. That led to a trip to Green Home Solutions in North Queen Anne near Seattle Pacific University in Seattle. 

Why care about green flooring?

Conventional flooring can be cut from environmentally sensitive forests, threatening endangered species of animals and plants, and contributing to our alarming rate of deforestation. It may also be bad for your health. Several years back, my wife and I were offered a cheaper bamboo flooring from a chain store recommended by a contractor. Bamboo is a quick-growing grass and can therefore be a very sustainable and environmentally-friendly material. The recommended “deal” on bamboo boards, however, turned out to be formaldehyde-laden boards unsustainably sourced and shipped from China.  When consumers discovered they were laying unlabeled carcinogens in their living rooms, the fairly large chain store that had been recommended by our contractor was buried in lawsuits and went bankrupt

What makes eco-friendly flooring?

Green Home Solutions specializes in flooring made without the use of toxic chemicals and installed without harmful adhesives. The wood flooring is usually from wood that has forest management certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Any company in the FSC supply chain, including harvesters, processors, manufacturers, distributors, printers, retailers, or anyone that is taking ownership of the forest product before the end user, needs to be FSC certified to be able to label or promote their products as FSC certified. Details on forest stewardship and how to qualify for quality stewardship are here.

Most wood products at Greenhome Solutions are free of formaldehyde or other harmful oils, and also without volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), which can affect healthy respiration. VOCs are also in some household cleaning products.

green flooring cork
A five-year old example of sustainable cork flooring in our home, in an area of high traffic and beneath a Persian rug, is holding up fine. Emeraldology 2020.

Greenhome Solutions sources some products from afar, which carry a higher carbon cost for shipping. For example this Mafi wood flooring made in Austria. It also carries local products such as marbled woods from Oregon White Oak, Pacific Madrone, and NW Orchard Walnut Sustainable Hardwood Flooring.  

After acquiescing to new harvests instead of recycled or re-used, my wife and I went for cork. This natural material is a superb insulator that performs well on ground floors on top of a cement foundation or crawl space. Another advantage of cork is its method of harvest. The material is acquired by stripping the outer bark from the cork oak tree, which does the tree no harm. The bark regrows, and a single tree can be harvested up to 20 times in its lifespan. Wood Wise, one of Green Home Solutions’ sourced products, suggests cork flooring can actually be “carbon negative,” because a stripped cork oak tree absorbs significantly more carbon dioxide than a non-harvested tree.

Stores similar to Greenhome Solutions that sell nationally online include Green Building Supply, based in the Midwest, and Sustainable Flooring based in Boulder, CO.

Feature photo copyright Emeraldology 2020.