So you’ve heard about “green” floors but don’t know much about them? Let us help you to understand what’s really important.
You’ve probably heard lots of green terms, but before we explain them to you, how about some “basics”? The greenest wood floor we can think of is one which has been used already, and now you’re going to use it again in your home. That’s a “Reclaimed Floor”, and it doesn’t get much greener than that! Reclaimed Floors are great, but due to the tremendous waste factor when removing them from an existing building, the cost can be really expensive.
Wood Floors For You
How about a flooring material that grows so fast and with so little human involvement that you could consider it to be a grass? Well, that’s Bamboo, and it’s called it a “Rapidly Renewable Resource”. Unlike Reclaimed Floors, bamboo is relatively inexpensive, but it’s not a look for every home.
After Reclaimed and Rapidly Renewable Floors, determining what’s actually green gets a bit more difficult. Buying any form of a Green floor is a good thing, and it lets you contribute to the preservation of our forests, and in many cases, to the protection of our environments. But you really need to know what you’re buying so that you’re not “Greenwashed” into buying something that’s really not Green! So here ‘s a little help in understanding some of the more common terms and definitions that you’ll come across . We’ll cover a lot of terms, but at the end, we’ll identify the ones that should be most significant to you!
CARB Compliance: California Air Resource Board act which limits the amount of formaldehyde emissions from composite wood panels.
Chain of Custody: The path taken by the wood…all the way from the forest to the finished carton.
Controlled Material: Material which has been harvested according to “eco friendly” procedures… specifically FSC-STD-40-005. www.fsc.org
Floorscore: A certification given by SCS which is an independent accreditation body who audits/certifies manufactures for the FSC.
FSC Certified: Wood floors which are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council are generally recognized as the most ecologically friendly flooring. Proper harvesting, forest sustainability, and people friendly working conditions are all factors in FSC Certification.
FSC Pure, Mixed, Recycled: Varying amounts/types of FSC material used in the composition of the floor.
IEQ 4.4: This is one component of the LEED rating system (see below) which certifies a product as “low emitting” in terms of harmful vapors.
Lacey Act: US Governments law banning any trade in illegally harvested timber and wood products.
LEED Points: a rating system developed by the US Green Building Council as a guide for the design and construction of commercial buildings. The goal is for minimal environmental impact and maximum quality of life for the buildings occupants. 1-100 points.
LEED For Homes: Similar to LEED commercial but based on a different, 136 maximum point rating system.
Locally Harvested: Same as LEED MR5 below, flooring which s harvested and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site is considered green because of reduced transportation costs.
MR4: A LEED point designation which refers to the Recycled Content of a wood floor.
MR5: LEED point designating materials which were harvested and manufactured within 500 miles of the project site.
MR6: Another LEED point category referencing a Rapidly Renewable Product.
RPP: Responsible Procurement Program. A similar accreditation program to the FSC. The RPP is developed/controlled by the National Wood Flooring Association
Reclaimed: A floor which had a prior life as flooring, posts, beams, or siding (LEED MR4).
Renewable Resource: Typically Bamboo or Cork, this is a “wood” flooring product which regenerates very rapidly (LEED MR6).
Smartwood: Similar to Floorscore, this is a certification offered by the Rainforest Alliance who also audits/certifies manufacturers for the FSC.
Sustainability: an overused term which is difficult to measure, but it generally refers to efforts taken by manufacturers to preserve the forest eco system.
VOC’s: Stands for Volatile Organic Chemicals, and the lower, the better!
Finally, there are lots of organizations who are committed to protecting our planet and its resources: World Wildlife Fund, Rain Forest Alliance, Hardwood Forestry Fund, Tropical Forest Foundation, Partners in Conservation, Global Forest Trade Network, and many too many others to list. Note…just because a flooring manufacturer references their membership in one or more of these fine organizations, it doesn’t necessarily mean the floor is green! Beware of Greenwashing!