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Eco-Friendly Kitchen Floors – Go Green in the Kitchen

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Who says you can’t go eco-friendly for kitchen flooring? Sure, kitchen floors have specialized requirements for durability and moisture resistance, but there are plenty of green options that meet these criteria.

Options vary widely in cost, hardness and other variables, so consider your budgetary and physical needs carefully before making a decision.

Cork

Cork is possibly the perfect flooring for kitchens; it’s naturally antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, fire retardant and resistant to mold and mildew.

Cork is soft and warm, perfect for standing for long periods of time preparing food or washing dishes. Your back and knees will thank you.

Best of all, since cork material comes from the bark of a tree, harvesting does not kill the tree. Suppliers in the Mediterranean carefully strip the bark only every few years to keep the supply coming, and every bit of the bark is used to produce cork products.

Concerned about the environmental impact of shipping the cork from Europe? Don’t be – the World Wildlife Federation isn’t. Since cork is being used less and less for wine bottles, the land it is on is becoming less valuable and is at risk of being cleared to accommodate growing human populations. The WWF encourages the purchase of cork products to help preserve the cork oak forests and the ecosystems they support.

Available in tiles or planks and in lots of different colors, cork is the preferred flooring choice of many consumers.

Linoleum

Surprise! Linoleum is actually very eco-friendly, because it’s made from all-natural materials: linseed oil, tree resins, ground limestone, wood flour, cork dust and pigments. These resources are pressed onto a jute backing, which is often made from recycled materials.

What many of us think of as “linoleum” is actually vinyl sheeting, which replaced linoleum in popularity in the mid-20th century – but are high in toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

Modern linoleum is naturally antimicrobial, and is available in tiles, planks or sheets. It is also easy to install, relatively inexpensive, and will last a long time with occasional waxing.

Glass

Glass tiles have been used to beautify homes for millennia; why shouldn’t you continue the tradition? Glass provides a visual depth and shiny beauty that no other material can match; it doesn’t stain, wipes clean and resists mildew and allergens.

Purchase tiles made from 100% recycled post-consumer and post-industrial glass; if you can find some that are locally produced by using sintering (a low-energy alternative to conventional melting), then you’ll score even more green credibility.

One drawback to glass flooring is that it can be slippery when wet – consider a non-slip sealant or creating a pattern with grout to keep slipping to a minimum.

Reclaimed/Salvaged/Engineered Wood

Repurpose existing wood into flooring and enjoy its natural beauty without worrying about contributing to worldwide deforestation. Wood can be salvaged from remodeling or demolition projects – get in touch with local excavators and contractors and see if you can’t take some wood off of their hands.

Engineered wood is made by pressing together several very thin layers, making the planks more stable and less susceptible to warping than solid wood. Look for products that are formaldehyde-free and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC only certifies organizations whose forestry methods responsibly provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

An Added Note

On any of these floors, use sealants that are labeled “low-VOC” or “non-VOC” – the lower the volatile organic compound content, the less toxic or fume-y the sealant will be.

Want more eco-friendly ideas for the kitchen and bathroom? Watch this space – we will be providing more green options in the months to come!

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