Why are Certain Types of Carpets Bad for the Environment?
As we mentioned, air quality, emissions, and waste are three areas where carpeting is typically unsustainable.
If you’re buying your carpet from a manufacturer that doesn’t care about sustainability, there’s a high likelihood that the carpet will be made with petroleum based materials, in a manufacturing plant that may do more harm than good.
Eventually, without a buy-back or recycling program, these carpets end up in landfills. There, the carpet or rug breaks down over thousands of years, emits harmful greenhouse gasses, and can leach toxic chemicals into groundwater. If the carpet or its backing contain plastic, you can also expect microplastics. Every unsustainable carpet that’s ever been made is still on our planet, unable to fully biodegrade.
When determining if your carpet is sustainable or not, ask the following of the manufacturer you’re purchasing from:
- What is the carpet made from?
- Does it contain toxic chemicals or volatile organic compounds?
- Was it responsibly manufactured?
- Is it biodegradable at the end of its life cycle?
- Does it require an unsustainable maintenance practice?
- How far does it have to travel to get to me?
- How durable is this product?
Each of these questions can help you determine how sustainable, or unsustainable your new carpet or rugs are.
Different Types of Eco-Friendly Carpet
Eco-friendly carpet is bucketed into two categories. There are carpets made of sustainable, biodegradable materials, and carpets made of recycled materials.
The carpets made from natural, renewable resources are biodegradable at the end of their life. They can also grow with little to no fertilizer or pesticides. Here’s a list of carpet material to look for:
- Sisal: made from agave plants
- Organic cotton
- Jute: a drought tolerant, quick to mature plant
- Organic wool
The carpets that are made of recycled waste consist of plastic bottles, nylon waste, and fishing nets. Often, this carpet isn’t the best choice for your living room rug. But they can be great options for front door mats or outdoor rugs!
For both of these sustainable carpet and rug categories, look for a product with low emissions of volatile organic compounds (low or no VOC).
We love that many carpet and rug manufacturers have started to provide take back programs! This is a way to recycle old carpet. Manufacturers like Interface, Mohawk, Shaw, Milliken Carpet, and others will take back your old carpet and make it into new carpet, or find a way to reuse it.
If you aren’t able to send your carpets back to the manufacturer, you can always find other places to take them on Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE). This non-profit is dedicated to finding carpet recycling solutions. Denver has three carpet recycling options:
The beginning of the life cycle of the carpet also matters. Look for organizations that are recycling or reusing products throughout their manufacturing process. They should use safe dyes, avoid insect and flame repellents, and create minimal waste.
Important Certifications for Sustainable Carpet and Rugs
While it would be nice to believe what everyone says, we all know that greenwashing is a very real practice many brands are guilty of. That’s why working with organizations with accredited certifications throughout your home remodel or build are so important.
Here are a list of sustainable certifications for carpets and rugs that are worth looking for to ensure that the information you’ve been given isn’t green washing:
- Cradle to Cradle
- The Carpet and Rug Institute Green Label Plus
- They also have a list of vacuums that are best for maintaining your rug!
- BREEAM Certified
- Indoor Air Comfort Certification
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
You can browse additional sustainable certifications here.
Check the Back of the Carpet, too!
When purchasing a carpet or a rug, you may be most concerned with the soft side of the carpet. It’s important to also double-check what the backing is made of. Look for carpets that have backing made of non-synthetic latex, untreated wool, recycled water bottles, or camel hair felt. Our personal favorites are natural Jute backings with non-toxic or water-based adhesives!
You’ll also want to ensure that the carpet is being installed with low emissions adhesives. Glues using high emissions can also release toxic gasses into your home.
Your carpet is only as good as the pad underneath it. If you’re replacing your carpet pad and carpet, we suggest investing in a natural rubber carpet pad. If you’re on a budget, you can also look for recycled content pads. Keep in mind that the thinner the pad, the shorter the lifespan of the carpet. Invest in high-quality backing to extend the life of your carpet by a few extra years!
Carpet Your Home to Protect Your Family, and the Planet
Did you know that in Colorado, by investing in good carpet you can cut your heating bill by 15%? Carpets can be a great investment as long as you’re smart about which carpet you’re bringing into your home.
It’s especially important to replace old carpet, which releases chemicals as they break down, and often aren’t up to current environmental standards. But, try to avoid taking your old carpet to the landfill. 4 billion pounds of carpet enter the solid waste stream in the US each year.
It doesn’t have to be this way. By investing in sustainable, biodegradable, or recyclable carpet, you can protect your home and the planet from toxins and greenhouse gasses.
The durability, materials, manufacturing process, shipping distance, and biodegradability or recyclability are a lot to keep track of on your own. That’s why we’re here to help. At Spark Interiors, we help homeowners make good investments during their remodel or build. We’ve done the research to find you the perfect carpet that is both a soft hug for your foot and sustainable.