We met a very animated, yet friendly sales guy giving us the scoop on eco-friendly/sustainable flooring, countertops and rainwater collection.
Basically, there are several types of flooring that are "in" nowadays:
- Bamboo flooring, which is a fast growing type of grass that is easily grown and harvested, but shipped from China. Bamboo is hard, resilient and can be made into many different beautiful patterns. There's a variety of quality, so be careful what you pay for!
- Cork flooring, which is made from the bark of cork oak trees, and when stripped, does not destroy the tree. Advantages are that they are softer on the feet, especially in an area where you stand a lot (i.e., kitchen), and are recycled and have no VOCs (volatile organic compounds).
- Linoleum flooring, which is an all natural, non-toxic flooring made of linseed oil, produced by pressing seeds from flax, an easy to cultivate and abundant plant. They are usually warm and softer on the feet than cold tile flooring and come in a variety of colors. The problem is the look of it, in my opinion, as it has that 70s retro look that doesn't evoke beauty to me, but hey, beauty is the eye of the beholder :-).
- Local or reclaimed wood, specific to your area. Check out wood that has been taken from buildings that were demolished. You can sometimes find great deals in reusing it for your flooring, banisters, ceiling beams, etc! We are checking out using hickory, which is a near diamond hard wood that is found in Arkansas and milled locally in the Hill Country. It is a beautiful wood that can be stained to your desired color and will last decades.
- Stained concrete with fly ash, which is basically the mineral residue resulting from coal plants and when mixed your concrete, greatly reduces cement production and therefore eliminating much of the carbon emissions. They are quite fashionable in homes nowadays, as it can make your home look very modern by staining or creating patterns in the concrete. It also provide a large thermal mass for your home. A thermal mass is some sort of structure (i.e. stone) that keeps a constant temperature and thereby positively affects the temperature in your home. Concrete floors are relatively cheap, as they can be part of your foundation, and you can then stain it, and then instantly have your floor ready. You can easily repair them if they crack and are durable, but the only problem is that concrete can be hard on the feet and unforgiving if you drop something on the floor.
We also looked into concrete countertops with varying degrees of recycled glass in them or using sorghum or bamboo as a countertop as opposed to concrete. There are even countertops made of recycled paper that are even stain, scratch and heat resistant! You have a lot of options to create the look you desire.
Then you must also remember to keep your sealants and paints healthy and VOC free. Off-gasing is the culprit, and you don't often see or smell these toxins anymore, as people forget that they are even around, but unfortunately always attack you. Ever wonder about mysterious allergies or the seemingly healthy/athletes that get cancer?? I personally believe that a lot of it is in your house environment. The Eco-wise salesguy mentioned that if you're on a budget and are ever going to "green" anything, you should start with your bedroom and work your way to every room in your house. That includes paint, adhesives, light bulbs, cleaning products, flooring, sheets, mattresses, etc!
We also looked at smaller barrels for rainwater collection for the roof garden of our house. A 55 gallon rain barrel costs about $55 and is terrific for watering your plants. These are some of the things you can add to an existing home that will help you start conserving without investing huge amounts of money. If only everyone can do something, even no matter how little it is, things can change drastically overall.