When you’re looking for new ways to make your home more sustainable, your first thought may not be your carpet. It’s a staple in many houses — creating cozy vibes and making floors safer — but it’s difficult to dispose of. Every residence needs a carpet upgrade every once in a while, but home professionals and DIYers should consider eco-friendly carpeting. They’re a new way to style a room and be kinder to the planet.
Here is the ultimate guide to buying sustainable carpets.
Why Other Carpets Need a Change
Every carpet needs to be replaced eventually. They get pretty dirty after a while and should be tossed, but they are much harder to break down than you might have thought.
The fibers and systems holding them have many components. The face of a carpet often contains many plastics, such as:
- Nylons 6 and 66
Recyclers must sort each different fiber from the other to process them. As you would expect, this is a very time-consuming process. Carpets contain thousands of these plastics, so facilities not dedicated to separating them may just toss the entire thing into the trash.
The backing system often consists of polyvinylchloride or latex. Each layer of backing may also have calcium carbonate and polypropylene. These materials require the proper recycling processes to create the best environmental outcome. However, they often do not receive this treatment.
Destructive waste disposal is one of the most damaging things to the environment. Much of this harmful trash will go into the ocean and landfills. There, it decomposes and releases toxins into the air and water. Additionally, animals could see these materials as food or become tangled in the waste. Each environmental impact has adversely affected humans, animals and natural resources.
One carpet-recycling company believes around 5 billion pounds of carpet went into landfills in 2017 alone. Certain enzymes can biodegrade different polyesters, but many of the plastics in carpets cannot break down naturally. This is why sustainable carpets are a much better option for people looking to improve their environmental impact.
What Makes Eco-Friendly Carpets Better?
Companies that make sustainable carpets often choose materials with little to no environmental impact. They can use wool, cotton and other natural fibers to create flooring with the same plush effect as plastics. However, these components will biodegrade when you decide to replace them. Some businesses also offer nontoxic dyes or dye-free alternatives.
Eco-friendly carpeting with plastic also typically consists of recycled fibers. Material that isn't going to break down might as well create another carpet. Some companies may reuse plastics from other carpets, while others look to sources like plastic bottles. Reusing these typically single-use materials is a much better option for the environment.
These businesses may also utilize a zero-waste economy. This means they do their best to maintain a product’s life, hopefully indefinitely. End-of-life and takeback programs ask for customers to return their products once they want to recycle them. The company then either breaks it down to create a new product or refreshes it to make the same one. This eliminates waste and creates an infinite reuse cycle.
Replacing, Buying and Installing Carpets Sustainably
You should know a few things if you’re interested in buying an eco-friendly carpet. These tips will help you find genuinely sustainable carpets, which ones you should reconsider and how best to install them.
1. Remove Your Old Carpet Safely
The first step is to replace the carpet you have now. Make sure you have the right tools and safety equipment. If your house was a bit of a fixer-upper when you first moved in, there’s a chance there could be mold or rust underneath the carpet. Wearing protective items can save you and anyone else from exposure to these dangerous substances.
2. Dispose of It Responsibly
You could leave your old carpeting rolled up at the end of your driveway to see if anyone would like to take it. There may also be some creative ways to reuse it around the house. Dyeing an old carpet is a great way to give it new life. However, if it’s too damaged to reuse, find ways to get it to a collection site. It will know how to process your old carpet. Search for local recycling facilities that accept them.
3. Find Sustainable Carpeting
Now comes the fun part — searching for a sustainable carpet you love. There are some things to look for before purchasing one.
Make sure companies use safe materials and harvest them responsibly. Natural products like wool, jute, bamboo, coir, sisal and seagrass are low-impact items. Using these to make a carpet is best if businesses collect them sustainably. Finding out will require research, so do some sleuthing on their practices before buying.
Take a look at what these businesses treat their carpets with as well. You may want to keep looking if they use chemical flame repellents, pesticides or unnatural dyes. These chemicals can harm human health. Their intent is helpful, but there are many reports of unpleasant smells and severe health complications. This carpeting could likely also be very damaging to the environment.
You can find out if the company you’re looking at follows sustainable manufacturing processes. Different environmental-certification entities assess if the products and business practices are truly green. Businesses deemed responsible and using an end-of-life program may be great options to buy from.
4. Install Your New Carpet Sustainably
Once you’ve received your eco-friendly carpet, it’s time to get it on the floor. You might have chosen a carpet-tiling option for its reduced waste. However, you should watch out for volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)in the adhesives.
VOCs are human-created pollutants that can have short- and long-term effects on health. Some are safe to breathe in, while others can cause cancer. When purchasing glue for your carpet project or looking at the adhesives present in the carpet itself, make sure it doesn’t contain any VOCs. The CRI Green Label Plus is a testing procedure that ensures any materials are safe from these gases.
Buy An Eco-Friendly Carpet With This Guide
Know what to look for when you want to buy a carpet sustainably. Understand what plastics and chemicals to avoid, which materials are best and how to find companies that produce environmentally safe carpets. Help save the environment by learning how to replace, buy and install your new sustainable carpeting.