The Environmental Impact of Your Flooring – and What you Can do About it

If we said the phrase ‘environmentally friendly’ to you, what would you think of? We’re willing to bet you’d think of things like beeswax wraps, bamboo fabrics and reusable straws instead of single-use plastic. And while all of those things are fantastic, small, everyday changes you can make to reduce your impact on the environment. But people often forget that your environmentally friendly purchasing decisions don’t have to just be limited to day-to-day items. You can also make an impact with some of the bigger purchases in your life.

For example, flooring. Granted, you might not change the flooring in your home very often, but if you are going through a renovation or redecoration, then your choice of flooring could have a significant environmental impact. After all, our world’s natural resources aren’t endless, and all flooring is made out of something! So if you’re trying to be more conscious of your impact on the world, you might want to consider an eco-friendly floor. Environmentally friendly flooring options are designed to minimise the use of natural resources, maximise efficiency and be at least partially recyclable when you do choose to replace it, reducing its impact on the world at every stage of its lifecycle.

You might be wondering, what exactly is the environmental impact of flooring anyway? And what do you need to look out for to make sure your next floor doesn’t just look good, but is kind to our planet as well? At Floor24, we’re passionate about the environment, and protecting the planet we live on. As a practice we try to be as environmentally friendly as we can, and today we’re going to share some of that knowledge with you.

Unfortunately when it comes to flooring, there is no one ‘thing’ that makes it environmentally friendly. Creating a floor is an involved and complex process with a lot of moving parts, and the impact it has can be different at each stage. That sounds complicated, so we’re going to break it down into the 4 main stages your floor goes through before it reaches the showroom, and what the impact of each stage can be. 

Materials: Going right back to the beginning, every floor is made of something. The type of material your floor is made of can vary wildly – but it all has to come from somewhere. And the impact of the materials can vary too. For example, vinyl flooring is made from Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC. It’s the world’s third most widely produced synthetic plastic polymer, and around 40 million tonnes of it are produced every single year. While this might make it sound good, PVC is also known as the ‘poison plastic’. Research done by Greenpeace has found that the PVC lifecycle – through production, use and disposal – results in the release of large amounts of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals. Whereas wool carpets are made from wool, which is a naturally occurring and replenishing material and regularly harvested from sheep in the farming industry. Each type of flooring will use a natural or synthetic material of some kind as a base, with a different level of environmental impact. 

Harvesting: Once you know what materials go into your flooring, you can look at the impact of actually getting that material in order to use it. For example, the main material needed to make wood and laminate floors is wood. This means it needs to be harvested from trees – and we all know the impact that has had on the environment over the years. But not all laminate manufacturers are equal – and the more environmentally conscious ones will harvest from FSC & PEFC sustained forests, allowing for the health and sustainability of forests around the world (don’t worry, we explain what that means later). And if you have wool carpets, then the wool will have been harvested from sheep as part of the farming process.

Manufacturing process: This is where it gets tricky to generalise, because the manufacturing processes for each type of flooring are vastly different. For example, PVC has been known to produce harmful chemicals and gasses during production, which are then released into the atmosphere, and even carpets can contain Volatile Organic Compounds (or VOCs), which release during manufacturing and after installation. Some companies will add compounds like formaldehyde to their products during manufacture, which can cause a lot of damage to the local environment as well. No manufacturing process is going to be without it’s waste products, so it’s a case of finding manufacturers who have the environment as a priority when designing their processes. We’ll be going into detail on the different types of manufacturing process, and what their impact can be, in the next section.

Transportation: As you might have guessed by now, not a lot of flooring is actually made in the UK. While there are manufacturers in the UK, a lot of flooring is made in huge plants abroad, in places like China, Sweden, Europe and America. That means you need to consider the carbon footprint of the transport from plant to shop, which can be fairly high depending on where it’s coming from. It’s also important to remember that transport doesn’t just apply at the end stage – it goes on throughout the entire lifecycle of the floor. From moving the materials from their origins to the manufacturing plants, to shipping to stores and eventually being delivered to your home for fitting, the carbon footprint of transport can be seen everywhere. At this level, it’s up to the manufacturers and the suppliers to ensure they are being as environmentally conscious as possible with their transport methods, the vehicles they choose, and the routes they plan, so that they can transport the maximum product with the minimum CO2 output. 

Of course, there is more than one type of floor, which means the impact of these things will depend on the flooring you choose. To be clear, no flooring option is going to be 100% environmentally friendly in all of those areas, but in the hands of manufacturers and suppliers who understand their impact and actively work to reduce it, they can come close.

When it comes to figuring out how environmentally friendly a type of floor is, there are 2 main areas to focus on – where the raw materials come from, and the manufacturing process. These 2 stages are where the most environmental impact is seen, where the most waste is produced, and by far where the most emissions are created. To show you what we mean, here’s a look into the manufacturing process, including supply of raw materials, for each of the major types of flooring.

Wood

Within wood floors, you have 2 different types – solid wood and engineered hardwood. Solid wood floors are exactly what they say on the tin – they are flooring planks made entirely of a solid piece of wood, that have been cut to size and had a tongue and groove carved in for installation. Engineered wood flooring on the other hand is generally made of anything from 3 to 12 layers of ‘ply’, which are criss-crossed in layers to give it the same strength as hardwood. 

Regardless of which type of floor you want, the main raw material is the same – wood. The main species of trees used for wood flooring are oak, pine, alder, beech, walnut, teak, hickory, walnut, mahogany, maple and balsa. But in the UK, the most popular by far is oak. The material for your floor needs to be harvested from trees, which are found in forests often planted for this specific reason. Thankfully now the majority of manufacturers only use wood from sustainable forests. This means that the forests are actively managed, only mature trees are cut and multiple saplings are planted in their place whenever one is felled. This means the forest can continue to grow and thrive even with trees being cut down for wood. But there are still plenty of manufacturers who source from unsustainable forests, and this contributes to the natural resource depletion we struggle with today. Thankfully, wood is a carbon neutral resource, and so the carbon footprint of using it is limited to felling and transporting it.

Once the materials have been sourced, it needs to be turned into flooring. This requires sawing, treating and cutting into planks, which are then cut with tongue and groove and finished. Solid wood is done in one piece, so if fairly straightforward. Engineered wood, as we mentioned earlier, is made up of layers of ply, which is a form of engineered timber. The top layer is usually a thicker layer of hardwood ‘veneer’, (called the wear layer), while the inner core can be made of any type of wood. The core layers are glued together, and then the veneer layer is glued and pressed on top to create a solid block of multi-layered wood. At this stage, the planks might be distressed (either by hand or by a machine) if they need to have an older, antique look to them. The final product can then either be shipped as is, or it can have a protective finish applied to seal it in place. What this finish is made of will depend on the type of wood and type of look the wood needs. Wood flooring gives off almost no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and is fantastic for indoor air quality when fitted.

Overall, the environmental impact of manufacturing wood flooring is relatively low. When done responsibly using sustainable forests, it does minimal harm and deforestation is minimised where possible. There are almost no chemicals used in production, and the most damaging aspect is the emissions, which will vary company to company. Engineered wood floors are actually considered better for the environment than solid wood, because less wood is needed to create the floor, and a lot less is wasted during the manufacturing process. 

Carpet 

Because carpet can be made of several different materials, the raw materials used to create them will vary, but the actual manufacturing process is largely the same. The major materials used for carpets now are:

Nylon: Nylon is one of the most popular carpet materials because it’s very soft, durable and resistant to stains and abrasion. Some estimates say around 90% of all residential carpet is made with nylon. Nylon is a synthetic material, made when the right combination of carbon-based molecules called monomers come together. There are quite a few different types of nylon, depending on the exact molecules in the chain. It was first developed during WW1 as an alternative to silk and cotton, and now it’s mostly manufactured in America, Brazil, China, India and Pakistan.

Polyester: Polyester is prized for its ability to hold vibrant and fade-free colours, so if you see a very brightly coloured carpet, it’s probably made from polyester. Once again it’s a synthetic fibre, but this one is non-allergenic and fairly soft. There have also been some breakthroughs in creating eco-friendly polyester, with one type (known as polyester/PET) being made from recycled plastic bottles.

Polypropylene: Also known as olefin, polypropylene is the second most popular carpet fibre, since it wears very well and is almost as soft as nylon. The fibres are very similar to natural wool, and it’s often used as a synthetic wool substitute. It’s made from the polymerization of propylene gas, made in a lab and then shipped to be turned into all sorts of things, including carpets. 

Acrylic: Acrylic is a type of plastic, sometimes known as ‘synthetic wool’ because it offers the feel and appearance of wool at a fraction of the price. It can also be blended with wool to bulk it out, and you will find a fair amount of carpet manufacturers do just this. 

Wool: Wool carpets are made of, well, wool. It’s a natural, luxurious and long-lasting material, and is one of the softest carpet fibres you can find. It comes in both low-grade and high-grade, and you may find that to get a good quality wool carpet you need to pay more for it. You can get a pure wool carpet, with no chemicals or additives, or a standard wool carpet that has been dyed and treated. And with this material, you do also need to consider the environmental impact of the farming industry – but that’s an entirely different conversation.

One of the bigger concerns for the synthetic carpet materials is that they take a long time to degrade in landfill – around 100 years according to experts. This is because they are essentially made of plastic at the core, which then resists naturally breaking down. This is why carpet companies are encouraged to recycle as much of their waste material as physically possible, as well as accept old carpets for recycling to cut down on the amount going into landfill.

Once the materials have been sourced, the production process for carpets is fairly straightforward. They are made by looping the fibre strands through a backing material back and forth until the desired size is met. It’s a bit like how you would sew a button onto a shirt. The backing material of carpet can be made of a few different things, including jute and felt. These loops of fibre can be left as they are (loop carpet), or they can be cut at various different angles and lengths to create different effects. How these loops are cut is known as the ‘carpet pile’. 

Once the pile has been cut, the carpet is then treated. This often involves the use of harmful chemicals, including dyes, fire retardants, stain protectors and insecticides. The waste from this process has to be carefully managed, as it can cause damage to the environment around the manufacturing plant, as well as airborne pollutants to be released. Speaking of airborne pollutants, one thing to note with carpets is that pretty much all of them give off VOCs – in fact, they’re the worst type of flooring for it. It’s what creates that ‘new carpet’ smell, as they release the most potent dose within 72 hours of installation.

Luxury Vinyl Tiles

Luxury vinyl tiles are generally made from PVC plastic. PVC is one of the more common and widely-used types of plastic in the world. You can find it everywhere – in packaging, home furnishing, children’s toys, car parts and more. It’s so popular because it’s so versatile and pretty inexpensive. And LVT tiles are popular because they come in a wide range of colours and styles, they are versatile, hard-wearing, warm and insulate sound very well. They are also very easy to install and clean, and if one tile becomes damaged then it’s simple to remove it and replace it with a new tile.

To make LVT flooring you typically need 3 layers, though some can include more. The base layer is made of PVC vinyl, which provides flexibility and stability underfoot. On top of that a decorative layer of PVC film will be applied, to give the tile the colour or pattern desired. The final top later is called the wear layer, and this is typically made from clear PVC. Depending on the manufacturer preferences, this may or may not include a urethane coating, which can provide better protection for everyday wear and tear. At each layer, the core PVC is mixed with various compounds to effect the hardness of the end material. The layers are stacked, and then carefully compressed by a rolling process, suspended in a liquid. This is then dried through a heat and air drying process, which produces the tough sheets of vinyl, which can be between 2mm to 6mm thick. It is then cut into tile and packaged for sale.

However, PVC is also known to be one of the worst materials when it comes to the environment. GreenPeace labelled it ‘the poison plastic’, citing worries about the use of chlorine in production and the dioxins that process created (dioxin being one of the most toxic chemicals ever produced). It’s also one of the least recyclable plastics we have, with just 0.5% of consumer PVC being recycled each year. However, there have been improvements made in the production of PVC, and it can now be made in a safer way, and is heavily regulated by the EU and by REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation And Restriction Of Chemicals) in the UK. So while it has it’s downsides, there are improvements being made.

Laminate

Laminate flooring is one of those flooring types that ticks a lot of the boxes. It’s simple durable, easy to install and it looks great when fitted. It comes in a number of different shades and styles, so there is something for everyone. And just like engineered wood, the core material of laminate is wood – or at least, wood products.

Laminate floors are typically made of 4 layers, each one a slightly different material, designed to bring a different quality to the floor. Those 4 layers are, from bottom to top:

Layer D – Backer Paper

Backer paper provides the balancing layer, and this is used to keep the board straight. It also seals the back of the laminate board at the end, so it’s dimensional stability isn’t compromised in any way (for example, by moisture). Some laminate manufacturers include a layer of foam padding on top of this, eliminating the need for underlay when installing, but it’s not a very common practice.

Layer C – HCF or MDF Core

This is the core layer of laminate flooring, and it’s usually made out of high-density fibreboard (although some manufacturers prefer to use medium-density fibreboard, or MDF). Both HDF and MDF are made from softwood fibres that are broken down and then combined with a wax and resin binder before being formed into panels using heat and pressure. For sustainable laminate, those fibres are actually the waste products from other types of flooring manufacture, so they are being used instead of sent to landfill. It’s the ultimate in recycling. During manufacture, this core board will be milled to precise tolerances and cut to specific profiles, which makes them easily and consistently fit snugly together and gives a nice smooth install.

Layer B – Decorative Paper

This is the layer that gives your laminate floor it’s look – and yes, it’s essentially a photograph of wood. The decorative paper is a high-quality printed design that comes in all sorts of styles and patterns – it’s one of the reasons laminate is such a diverse and popular flooring choice. This design can be a realistic reproduction of wood, stone, marble, colourful patterns, artwork, paint splatters – anything you can think of!

Layer A – Wear Layer

This is the top layer of your laminate floor, and this is the one you will be walking on. This is usually done with resin, and it puts the finishing touch on every plank. It seals the surface of the floor from everyday wear, minor accidents, scrapes and scratches, and it protects the decorative paper layer from UV rays that could discolour or damage it over time.

To make a flooring plank, those 4 layers are stacked up, and then fused together in a single press operation at high heat (over 300°F). This technique is called direct-pressure laminate (DPL) construction, and it’s the most common way to manufacture residential laminate. That means no glues, adhesives or other chemicals are used – just pressure and heat, which is much better for the environment. Laminate can also be made using waste materials from other floor manufacturing processes, and raw wood can be sourced from sustainable forests. So just like wood flooring, it’s environmental impact is pretty minimal.

So the key question really is, what makes sustainable flooring, and what kind of thing do you need to look out for when buying your floor?

Sustainability

The biggest concern for environmentally friendly flooring has got to be sustainability. In other words, where do the materials that made your floor come from, and is that a renewable source?

For example, if you choose a wool carpet, then this is considered sustainable as wool comes from sheep, who regrow their fluffy coats every year with 0 impact to the environment, so it’s an easily replenished resource. When it comes to wood-based floors, understanding where that wood came from is the key point. Sustainably managed forests are being created all over the world, and if the manufacturer is environmentally conscious, then they will be sourcing their materials from these sustainable forests instead of others – which can be proven with the right certifications. Don’t worry – we’ll talk about that in a second.

Another thing to bear in mind is what happens to the flooring at the end of its life. Some flooring is designed to be hard-wearing and longer lasting, so you shouldn’t need to replace it as often, and that’s how the manufacturer reduces their environmental impact. Others will be fully or partially recyclable, so no waste materials end up in landfill. For example, PVC is a man-made compound, and can be easily replicated time and time again. However, it’s the least recyclable type of flooring there is. So while it is durable and will last a long time, it’s destined for landfill at the end of it’s life, where it will sit for over 100 years waiting to degrade.

You should also consider the impact of the supply chain when choosing who to buy your flooring from. Opting for a company that manufactures their flooring in the UK is a much more eco-friendly option than one who produces it in China and ships it to the UK. There is a significant carbon footprint in the supply chain for flooring, and the more effort a manufacturer has gone to to reduce that, the more environmentally friendly they are. Most manufacturers are happy to explain their efforts to reduce that impact, and will have pages dedicated to it on their website for easy reading. 

Ultimately, sustainability is something that needs to run through the whole business in order to manufacture sustainable flooring – and as a consumer you might not be able to see all of that. But by doing a little bit of research, or asking questions of the people you buy from, you can make the most informed decision you can – which is the best anyone can do. 

Removal of Toxins

We all know that as a general rule, toxins are pretty bad. But for a long time, manufacturers of almost everything of things didn’t really mind what toxins went into their products – it’s why we used to have mercury in thermometers. However, for the past few years there have been great efforts to regulate the removal of toxins in any flooring products in the EU– specifically from carpet. Since the EU is the second biggest market for carpet after the US and one of the biggest producers, toxins quickly became a big issue both from a safety and an environmental standpoint. After intense study, the recommendations for new policy around toxins in carpet included:

  • Ensuring an integrated health approach to the circular economy.
  • Identify and restrict or remove chemicals of concern in carpet.
  • Extend producer responsibility and carpet specific legislation.
  • Re-introduce an ambitious EU eco-label for textile floor coverings.
  • Promote eco-design for manufacturers.
  • Regulate the removal of chemicals of concern from carpets by manufacturers.
  • Expand the list of restricted chemicals.
  • Set complementary eco-design requirements for obtaining certification for carpets.

While some these policies are still being examined or drafted, many of them have come into effect already, and so larger carpet manufacturers, or more eco-conscious ones, will have already started this process. If you’re not sure – just ask! A good sign that your carpet is toxin-free is to look for the Blue Angel or Nordic Swan ecolabels

Environmental Standards 

If a flooring manufacturer is dedicated to being as environmentally friendly as possible, there are some things they can do to prove it. Across the world there are a lot of different regulations and certifications manufacturers can get to showcase their commitment, and the actions they’ve taken. Some of them are mandatory, but most are voluntary, and businesses can apply to be assessed by an independent board, who will decide if their efforts are good enough. It would take us the entire length of this document to go through each and every one, so instead we’re going to look at some of the bigger, more mainstream certifications and stamps you can look for to see if your flooring was manufactured in an environmentally friendly way. 

ISO 14001 (Environmental Management): This ISO standard sets out the criteria for an environmental management system, and what needs to be in place to get the certification. It details how to improve a company’s environmental performance, what tools they need to have and how well they need to perform. Being ISO 14001 certified means that the manufacturer has a system in place to monitor and manage their impact on the environment, and that they are consistently delivering on green targets.

ISO 9001 (Quality Management System): This shows that a manufacturer is committed to continually improving and streamlining their operations, and can prove they provide a high-quality product. While not strictly an environmental standard, having this certification often shows that a business is committed to building a sustainable business with better, more environmentally friendly practices.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council): If a manufacturer uses wood in their products, then this is a symbol to look out for. The FSC is an international non-profit dedicated to promoting responsible and sustainable forestry, and certifies forests all over the world to ensure they meet the highest environmental and social standards. Products made with wood and paper from an FSC forest will be marked with a ‘tick tree’ logo, and mean you can be sure that buying it won’t harm the worlds forests.

PEFC (Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification): This is similar to the FSC mark, but there is a bit more to it. In order to be PEFC certified, a manufacturer needs to be able to prove they are using materials only from sustainably managed (and certified) forests, and that they have demonstrated that each step of the supply chain, from  sourcing to the final product, is done in a sustainable way.

EMAS (The EU Ecomanagement and Audit Scheme): A premium set of tools and accreditations designed to help companies evaluate, report and improve their environmental performance. Having this in place means that there is a continuous and conscious effort to improve environmentally friendly practices across the whole business, and this has been verified by the EU.

Ecolabels: Each country, continent or union of countries will have their own ecolabel – and each is a sign that the manufacturer is part of the commitment to sustainable production and developmental goals at each stage of manufacturing and distribution. For example, the Nordic countries have the Nordic Swan ecolabel, and so if a manufacturer is sourcing materials from or is based in a Nordic country, this should be the ecolabel you look for.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): A certification common in the building and construction trades, used to prove that the firm meets and exceeds environmental and sustainability goals designed to improve performance and environmental impact. If a flooring manufacturer provides commercial flooring products, then they should have this certification.

M1: M1 is an emissions classification for building materials. The idea is to enhance the development and use of low-emissions building materials, so that the overall emissions for new buildings remains low. For flooring, this certification means that the flooring doesn’t produce high emissions, and is good for general indoor air quality.

French A+: This is a French regulation around VOCs in flooring. It’s the mandatory labelling of floor covering and coatings, and having it certified that the flooring meets a certain criteria. The criteria goes from C to A+, with A+ being the best one to go for, as it means low to no emissions.

EUTR (European Union Timber Regulation): Another one around wood products, the EUTR is a European trade mechanism, designed to prohibit the trade of illegally harvested timber and timber products. This badge just gives the green light that the wood used comes from a regulated and certified forest (sustainably managed or not).

Remember, that’s by no means a comprehensive list – but it’s a good starting point! And if you’re not sure, most manufacturers will list their accreditations on their websites.

As a flooring company, we could very easily just choose products that were cheap, or that were the easiest to install, to make our lives easier. But we don’t do that. We pride ourselves on using only the highest quality suppliers, so that we can provide you with a  beautiful floor that lasts as long as you need it to. But beyond that, we also make a point of choosing our suppliers based on their commitment to the environment. And to show you that we mean that, here are our top suppliers for each type of floor we can install, and what they do to ensure their flooring products are environmentally friendly from start to finish.

Carpet

Associated Weavers: Associated Weavers are one of the biggest producers of broadloom carpet in Europe, producing an average of 26 million square meters of carpet each year. They are headquartered in Belgium, and the majority of their product is manufactured and tested there as well. They have shown their commitment to sustainability over the years in many ways, from changing their processes to reduce energy consumption and waste production, ensuring the efficient use and reuse of water, through to running all of their manufacturing plants on green, sustainable energy. They are also GUT and ECRA certified, both of which are regulations to ensure the environmental sustainability of manufacturing and the continued improvement of systems to meet new environmental goals. All while still using the highest grade of raw materials to produce some fantastic carpet products. On top of that, they’ve pioneered an amazing eco-product that we are absolutely in love with. It’s called SEDNA, and it’s a new type of carpet woven from a special kind of nylon called Econyl. Econyl regenerated nylon is made from recycled wate material like old carpets and abandoned fishing nets collected from the bottom of the sea. It’s carpet that is literally saving ocean life, and you can’t get more environmentally friendly than that!

Abington/Victoria Carpets: Abbington are a born and bred UK manufacturer of carpets, based in South Wales. They use a company in Kidderminster to warehouse, cut and deliver carpet across the UK, making their transport impact pretty low! Over the years they have developed their manufacturing processes to be as efficient as possible, and in 2012 they were able to install a series of tufting machines, allowing them to recycle their waste product into new materials, and reducing their waste going to landfill by 95%. They use high-quality, sustainable materials, and in 2014 they were bought by Victoria Carpets to become their volume carpet producer in the UK.

Cormar Carpets: Based in Manchester, Cormar are another one of our favourites for sustainable carpet. They produce around 15 million square metres of carpet from 3 different facilities strategically placed across the country, allowing them to reduce their carbon footprint with deliveries. They’ve won several awards over the years, most of which include commitment to sustainability as one of the key points. They are one of the core founders of Carpet Recycling UK, and work hard to promote the use of recycling and reduce waste within the carpet industry.  

Laminate

Quickstep: When it comes to laminate, the only company we will use is QuickStep. Not only are their products amazing quality and very durable, but they have shown a fantastic commitment to preserving the environment and even making a positive difference. They are mindful of not only how they source their raw materials, but how they provide energy for the production process, handle their logistic and avoid packaging waste. Their laminate flooring is entirely made from residue and leftovers of the forestry and wood industry, so that they can reduce their carbon footprint. They also only use commercial wood species like pine and spruce to make their floors, and don’t touch exotic woods or woods from rainforests that are valuable as a wildlife habitat. Their internal waste is re-used during production as much as possible, and their high standards mean you can maximise the lifespan of your floor. On top of all of that, they’ve racked up an impressive list of environmental accreditations, including:

  • EU Ecolabel (A label of excellence given to products that meet high environmental standards)
  • PEFC (An internationally recognised label for using wood from only sustainably managed forests)
  • M1 (The lowest possible emissions class)
  • A+ (The best accreditation for indoor air quality)
  • LEED (Globally applied building classification programme for low-emission products)

Luxury Vinyl Tiles

Karndean: Karndean are another company we love, not just because they produce some of the best luxury vinyl tiles on the market, but because they are so committed to protecting the environment and minimising their own impact while they do it. All of their products qualify for LEED, they have a Building Research Establishment Green Guide rating of A or A+ on all of their products, and they are members:

  • The United States Green Building Council
  • The Green Building Council of Australia
  • The New Zealand Green Building Council

They also hold ISO 140001 certifications for all of their factories, meaning they are committed to the continuous improvement of environmental practices. This includes using recycled PVC for all but the top wear layers of their tiles, sourcing their raw materials from ISO 14001/ISO9001 certified suppliers, and ensuring no harmful chemicals like BPAs and formaldehyde (which are common in PVC production) are present in their manufacturing or finished products. And if that wasn’t enough, they have achieved 0 waste to landfill in all UK offices, implemented new storage and loading on their vehicles to reduce emissions significantly, and switched to electric vehicles for almost all of their fleets. Honestly, we could go on for ages about the commitment Karndean show to preserving the environment, so if you want to know more you can read their 14-page environmental policy here. The only downside to Karndean is the carbon footprint in manufacturing. Their products are all made in manufacturing plants in China and Taiwan, before being transported to distribution centres across the world. So while their practices are amazing, there is more of an environmental impact to consider in transport.

Amtico: Amtico are another brand with amazing high-quality products and a dedication to sustainable business practice that we at Floor24 can really get behind. They have over 15 accreditations to their name, including 4 different ecolabels to certify their efforts in sustainability. They prioritise the elimination of pollution and reduction of waste in their manufacturing, recycle as much of their waste material as they can, and develop products that have a much longer useable lifespan to reduce manufacturing demand. And because all of their products are made right here in the UK, there is a very minimal impact to transporting good, and almost no carbon footprint. You can read their full sustainability statement here.

Polyflor: Polyflor have been manufacturing flooring products since 1915, and they have gone from strength to strength since. As the need to be more sustainable became apparent, Polyflor moved with the times while other competitors fell behind. Their main priority is to reduce carbon emission across all of their operations, while ensuring all of their materials are sourced responsibly and improving their recycling efforts. They have now transformed their business model into one that encompasses the three pillars of sustainability (environment, society and economy), with great results. Their sustainability report showcases their 6 step sustainability model for manufacturing, which takes into account over 40 different ways their business could impact the environment, and addresses how they reduce that impact. And like many others in this list, they have won many awards (7 to be exact) for their environmental efforts. If that wasn’t enough, Polyflor partnered with Altro to launch a vinyl take-back scheme called Recofloor – which accepts post-installation and old vinyl flooring products of all shapes and sizes, and recycles them into new flooring. Since we know how bad the manufacturing process of vinyl can be for the environment, the fact that these companies have banded together to reduce the need for new vinyl to be made is a fantastic thing, and great for the environment.

Wood

V4 Wood Flooring: V4 are a company located just around the corner from our showroom, and it’s great to see that even local companies are taking their environmental responsibilities seriously. V4 only sources their wood from well managed and sustainable forests and only packs their products in eco-packaging that is either created from recycled materials, or is unbleached and can be recycled in the future. They are also FSC and PEFC certified, and EUTR (European Union Timber Regulation) compliant. However, their wood products are primarily manufactured in China before being transported to the UK, so the carbon footprint of the product is pretty big right off the bat. On top of that, they are known to add formaldehyde to their products, which can have some pretty horrific effects on local wildlife around their plants, and can contribute to harmful emission from the wood itself (though these do fade over time). So, while they might be one of the most cost-effective wood flooring manufacturers out there, they are also the least environmentally friendly.

Atkinson Kirby: Atkinson Kirby another wood flooring brand who understand how deeply flooring can harm the forests if not done responsibly. They source their wood from sustainable forests in the UK, and ensures responsible practices are used throughout the processing, manufacturing and distribution. This has earnt them not only the FSC and PEFC certification, but the FSC Chain of Custody Certification as well. They also cut emissions by producing the majority of their flooring accessories in their own factories in North Wales,  which has earned them their ISO 14001 certification.

Kahrs: This is the brand we would say goes above and beyond in a pretty major way to create a sustainable business. Khars produce both vinyl and wood floors, but their main product range is wood. So they have done the obvious thing, and they have planted a forest. Actively engaged with forestry organisations and NGOs, they contribute a huge amount towards sustainable re-forestation. They also source the majority of their raw materials from Sweden, where forests have grown by 60% in volume over the past 100 years. They have developed new methods for treating water in the wood industry using the natural qualities of vegetation anywhere in the world– something that has been studied by 5 PhD dissertations and resulted in the opening of a new water treatment facility. Their products are free of all toxic chemicals, with very low emissions to improve air quality. And of course, they hold many environmental certifications, including:

  • EMAS for constant improvement in environmental work
  • ISO 14001 for their environmental management system
  • ISO 9001 for their air quality control
  • FSC for responsible forestry
  • PEFC for responsible forestry
  • LEED and Floorscore for sustainable building projects
  • M1 certificate for their luxury vinyl tiles
  • French A+ for low emissions standards

One of the things to note about Kahrs, and about most environmentally friendly manufacturers, is that they tend to be at the higher end of the budget scale. There are a lot of things that need to be done differently in the manufacturing process to ensure the environment isn’t harmed, and most of these modifications aren’t cheap. So if you’re looking to buy a truly eco-friendly floor, you may find yourself paying a little more than you expected. But the way we see it, we may pay more in money, but we pay less in damage to our planet – and while we can always make more money, we only have one planet, so we need to take care of it.

At Floor24, we are passionate about flooring, but also about the environment. Our founders have always been proud to be as environmentally conscious as possible in their personal lives, and now they want to bring that into the business as well. That’s why we carefully vet each and every one of our suppliers for not only their quality, but their commitment to eco-friendliness. The suppliers we’ve listed above have all proven, to a regulated standard, that their products and processes are environmentally friendly while still meeting the highest quality standards for their end product. We understand that it can be difficult to ensure flooring is completely free of environmental impact, but by choosing materials and suppliers who are conscious of the effect they can have on the world, we are able to offer some of the most environmentally friendly flooring options around.

And of course, we do our bit in other ways too. For example, we are in the process of investing in a fleet of electric vans and vehicles to replace our current fleet, which should significantly reduce our carbon footprint for every journey. We are proactive with planning our routes so that we travel efficiently, and we are careful with the materials we choose to use in the fitting process as well. Even the cleaning materials we supply are eco-friendly where we can, avoiding the use of harsh chemicals that can be bad for the environment while still giving you that nice clean floor you’re looking for. Our team are always on the lookout for ways we can improve, and while we are by no means perfect, we dedicate time, effort and resource every day to reducing the impact of flooring on our environment. At the end of the day, reducing our environmental impact is all about choice, and we choose not only to work in an eco-friendly way, but help our customers make informed decisions about their flooring options as well.

If you’re interested in sustinable flooring options, or you just want to know a bit more about the flooring industry before you start your next project, we would love to help. Our team are always on hand to talk through your ideas, give you suggestions on sustainable flooring types and styles that would work in your home, and provide you with samples to take home, so you can be sure you’re making the best decision. So, if you’d like to find out more, you can get in touch by calling our showroom on 01252 372222, or emailing info@floor24.co.uk.