As younger generations are slowly beginning to get traction on the housing ladder, their spending habits are beginning to be reflected in the home improvement market. Millennials are more invested in sustainability than previous generations, and luckily- they’re willing to pay to see their values reflected in their homes. A study by Forbes found that 62.5% of millennials believe it is worth paying more for eco-friendly products, compared to just 39.9% of 55-65 years olds. The ecologically-minded buying habits are beginning to be seen transferring to larger purchases, such as flooring.
For years bamboo has been the mainstay of eco-friendly flooring options. Bamboo reaches maturity in 5 years, and can be harvested without need of replanting, making it incredibly sustainable. However, whilst we’re still in love with bamboo, we thought we’d give you a run down of a couple of other ecological trends that are popping up in the flooring market.
A Cork Comeback
Cork is perfect for the mid century vibe that is cropping up everywhere in the design world. Much like bamboo, the sustainability lies of cork in its ability to quickly regenerate. Cork is taken from the bark of the tree, rather than the wood itself. This means that the trees grow back their cork after each harvest, and can be harvested up to 15 times in a lifetime.
Cork trees are also resistant to drought and insects, meaning pesticides and other environmentally impactful chemicals aren’t necessary in its production. The naturally occurring suberin that makes cork resistant to insects also makes it impermeable to dirt and dust as a flooring tile – meaning that cork flooring is hypoallergenic and easy to clean. This also means that the air pockets inside the cork are retained, making it a wonderfully soft and cushiony flooring, and a highly effective form of insulation.
As cork grows all around the Mediterranean sea, it can have significantly lower air miles than Chinese grown bamboo, especially for European consumers.
An Eco Turn for Engineered wood
Engineered wood isn’t something we traditionally have thought of as eco-friendly, but you can get 4 times more floor coverage producing engineered wood flooring than compared with using the same amount of wood used to make solid planks. The sustainability of engineered wood flooring can vary between manufacturers, but if you are looking for hardwood, it can be worth comparing the relative benefits of an engineered alternative.
Wood Flooring for Life
With increased sustainable forestry practices, solid wood flooring comes with fewer and fewer negating factors. The core advantage of wood flooring is its longevity. A solid wood flooring wont need refinishing for 15-20 years and can be refinished 4-6 times. This is an incredibly long product lifetime.
In addition to this, it can have a continued life after it can no longer be refinished. The (by now antique) wood can be reclaimed, recycled, used as fuel or composted, as unlike so many other flooring types it is entirely biodegradable.
More and more consumers are becoming aware of the environmental impact of air miles. A study in Denver, Colorado found that concrete made in the state had a lower carbon footprint than bamboo from China, when the carbon footprint associated with transportation was included. Also, wood needs a long period to adapt to the local climate, so buying local will reduce warp and wear over time giving you an extended life on your wooden floor.
As demand increases supply, we’ll continue to see more and more flooring trends that lean towards sustainability. While all of these options might not be gold standard sustainable, its uplifting to see that broader consumer trends are becoming more and more environmentally conscious.