What Is Environmentally-Friendly Carpet?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

An environmentally-friendly carpet is a rug designed to have a low negative impact on the environment. The source of the rug, its manufacturing, and its recycling potential may all affect whether it is an environmentally-friendly carpet. Some of the best choices for environmentally-friendly floor coverings are rugs made from natural materials, or those that have not been treated with polluting chemicals. Rugs made from recycled materials may also sometimes be considered environmentally-friendly, but only if they have also been processed without volatile organic compound or VOC-releasing chemicals.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

What materials are used in the creation of a rug greatly affect its environmental status. Many synthetic rugs are made from petroleum-based products, which gradually release VOC gases over time. VOC gases have the potential to irritate respiratory conditions, and are generally considered to be an environmental pollutant. Moreover, the manufacturing of synthetic fibers may also involve heavy pollution. Avoiding non-recycled synthetic fibers is key to finding an environmentally-friendly carpet.

Environmentally-friendly materials for carpeting include bamboo fibers, jute, seagrass, hemp, and wool. These fibers contain no natural pollutants, and come from fast-growing, renewable resources. Cotton may be considered a green material if it is organically produced; non-organic cotton is often treated with a variety of chemicals during its growth, which can contribute to soil, air, and water pollution.

Even a natural and sustainably sourced rug may not truly be an environmentally-friendly carpet if it is treated with pollutant chemicals. Fire, insect, and mold-retarding chemicals may be sprayed on a rug to increase its lifespan. Unfortunately, many of these substances are polluting and result in off-gassing throughout the life of the rug. Rugs not treated with harmful chemicals may be listed as non-toxic, non-treated, or organic. Since these standards are not always regulated, it may be best to do some research on non-toxic claims before purchasing.

Consider purchasing an environmentally-friendly carpet from a company with a buy-back program. These programs allow the owner to return the rug at the end of its lifespan, in return for a discount or small refund. The old rugs are then stripped apart and incorporated into new rugs. Buy-back programs help reduce wasted materials, and prevent strain on natural resources.

Rugs made from recycled materials are often considered environmentally friendly. This type of carpeting may use rags, discarded clothing, old rugs, plastic, and nylon to create brand new rugs. Recycled rugs help reduce strain on landfills, by taking discarded materials and re-purposing them. As with natural fiber rugs, however, it may be worth investigating the use of chemical processing or treatments to ensure that a recycled rug is truly a non-toxic product.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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