Carpet manufacturers and installers have taken measures to reduce carpet's negative impact on the environment through improved production and installation techniques and an emphasis on reclaiming and recycling old carpet.
Carpet has long had a big and bad environmental footprint, with petroleum and fossil fuels used in its production and an estimated 5 billion pounds of carpet and carpet padding ending up each year in in U.S. landfills.Slowly though, carpet manufacturers and installers have taken measures to reduce its negative impact on the environment through improved production and installation techniques and an emphasis on reclaiming and recycling old carpet. Consumers are taking notice and are beginning to embrace the trend by asking about and purchasing more environmentally friendly carpeting.“It seems like every year we get more people asking for environmentally friendly products,” says Steve Huddleston of highly rated Color Visions Flooring in Charlotte. “Definitely people are more mindful of that, but more than anything else, I think they see (the benefits) as an added bonus that helps them make their mind up when they purchase it.”Huddleston says his top-selling carpet is made with a renewably sourced polymer that is made in part from corn oil and requires about one-third less energy to produce than nylon carpet. It typically costs as much as a high-end nylon carpet, Huddleston says.“It’s a very good product," Huddleston says. “They don’t have to use oil out of the ground to make it. The material itself is also recyclable. It’s not the cheapest carpet in the store, but it’s our top seller. It has an excellent warranty for one thing and it’s super soft. A lot of people shy away from things if they’re environmentally friendly, because they think there has to be a catch. There’s no catch with this. They’re not sacrificing anything for it to be environmentally friendly.”Another popular carpet type is a polyester fabric made from recycled plastic drink bottles. Though polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics have been used for several years to make carpets, technology continues to improve the carpet type’s resistance to stain, durability and fading from sunlight. PET carpet typically costs about 20 to 30 percent less than nylon, says Brent Weaver of highly rated Weaver Carpets Inc. in Lakewood, Colo.“Instead of throwing all that stuff in landfills, they’re taking that stuff out and melting it down to pellets; then they take the pellets and make carpet fiber out of that,” Weaver says. “I think it’s evolving. They’re making more and more. One of my largest wool manufacturers just came out with a polyester-based carpet. They’re making a lot of improvements to it.”Weaver says he’s seen an increase in manufacturers reducing their global footprint through their production techniques.“(A mill in California) actually reclaims their own water, produces their own electricity and recycles all their scrap carpet in the mill,” Weaver says. “(Another) is recycling out of landfills millions and millions of pounds of nylon carpet. They’re either recycling it back into carpet or back into a pad.”Chemical-free wool and carpet made from seagrass, sisal and hemp are other natural, eco-friendly options.Consumers interested in purchasing eco-friendly carpet should research the manufacturer’s production methods. Check that all environmental claims are certified in writing. The Carpet and Rug Institute offers a “Green Label” designation on carpets that have low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Recently, CRI launched a “Green Label Plus,” which sets higher indoor air quality standards for carpets and adhesives. Talk to your retailer and installer about what options they offer for eco-friendly carpet, padding and adhesives.Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie's List, the nation’s most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to healthcare.