10 Green Flooring Options and Ideas for Your Next Home Renovation

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated February 16, 2022
A modern kitchen with concrete flooring
Photo: Victor zastol'skiy / Adobe Stock

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The picturesque home you see in a magazine or on your favorite home improvement show doesn’t have to be a faraway dream. Sometimes, all that’s needed to transform a dull room into a warm and inviting space is beautiful new flooring—and using eco-friendly floor materials can make it that much better. So, say goodbye to scratched, worn, and outdated flooring with these 10 green flooring ideas.

What Is Eco-Friendly Flooring?

First off, what exactly makes flooring eco-friendly? Also called “green flooring,” “environmentally-friendly flooring,” or “sustainably-sourced flooring,” eco-friendly flooring fits the following requirements:

  • Responsibly sourced from abundant materials like oak, natural stone, and bamboo

  • Made using minimal energy consumption

  • Sourced locally and delivered using minimal resources

  • Designed to emit as few air pollutants as possible 

Some types of carpet and flooring can negatively affect your home’s air quality by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause allergy-like reactions for some homeowners. When you choose eco-friendly flooring material for your big home renovation, you also invest in a product that is beneficial for your indoor air quality and responsibly made from non-recyclable materials.

If you’re ready to start comparing your flooring options, check out these 10 environmentally-friendly floors ideas.

Environmentally-Friendly Flooring Options

1. Bamboo Flooring

A spacious bedroom with large windows and bamboo flooring
Photo: jhorrocks / E+ / Getty Images

Unlike logged trees, bamboo is actually a grass species. And like any grass, it grows extremely fast and regenerates itself. Since bamboo is akin to an unruly lawn that won’t stop growing, it is a highly renewable resource. 

Just because the label says it's bamboo, though, doesn't mean the floor material is green in color. Also note, some bamboo flooring includes glues and finishes high in VOCs, so check with a store sales representative before choosing a bamboo flooring to be on the safe side.

2. Cork Flooring

Top view of a kid playing with a toy train while sitting on cork flooring
Photo: OlgaKhorkova / Adobe Stock

Not all that glitters is gold, but when it comes to cork flooring, it’s natural hue is sure to resemble a warm, golden interior. Cork flooring is made of naturally-shredded tree bark from cork trees. Since cork comes from the bark and not the entire tree, the trees are preserved during the process—making cork a sustainable product. 

The best part is that cork trees have a 200-year lifespan and can continue to produce usable bark for centuries. Cork is also resistant to mold and bacteria, highly durable and flexible, recyclable, and biodegradable.

3. Low-VOC Carpet

A master bedroom with wall-to-wall carpet
Photo: irina88w / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Carpeting can be eco-friendly, but not all carpet is alike. The pesky VOCs we mentioned earlier are common in carpets. More and more carpet manufacturers are meeting industry standards for low emissions to counter VOCs

Identifying Eco-friendly Carpet

Low-VOC carpet products carry a “Green Label Plus” logo from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). The CRI created this program to set higher standards for carpet, cushions, and adhesives to protect consumers from products that emit high levels of VOC emissions. Each qualifying product must pass testing conducted by UL, a worldwide leader of safety and testing in science and technology.

Best Type of Green Carpet

The type of carpet you choose affects its level of sustainability. Wool carpeting is a healthy alternative to nylon or other synthetic carpets because it is biodegradable and free of additives like dyes and flame retardants. Wool flooring costs more upfront than standard carpet. According to HomeAdvisor, you can expect to pay around $1,000 to $5,200 for wool compared to $400 to $2,200 for synthetic carpet.

4. Linoleum Flooring

A kitchen with wooden cabinets and linoleum flooring
Photo: solarisimages / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Once prevalent in older homes, linoleum flooring is making a comeback. True linoleum is made of natural products like rosins, limestone, wood flour, and more, and it’s resilient, anti-bacterial, and biodegradable. Some linoleum products even click together, thus eliminating the need for glue.

Be wary, however, of linoleum look-alikes. Synthetic vinyl and laminate flooring closely resemble linoleum flooring but are not made from natural materials and may have a higher VOC-content. 

5. Concrete Flooring

A bedroom with concrete floor and a door leading to a living room
Photo: Carlina Teteris / Moment / Getty Images

Concrete may seem like an industrial material worthy of only the basement floor. Still, with a little TLC, it can achieve a modern, polished look that is scratch-resistant and sustainable. Since concrete is made of natural materials like gravel, water, clay, and sand, sourcing materials for concrete is simple and requires minimal processing. 

Not to mention, concrete is durable, easy to recycle, and capable of being crushed and broken down for reuse in new building supplies. 

6. Porcelain and Ceramic Tile Flooring

A modern bathroom with porcelain tiles
Photo: Onzeg / E+ / Getty Images
Porcelain versus ceramic tile comparison, with porcelain being more durable and ceramic more affordable

Porcelain and ceramic are commonly found in toilets and dishes, but these two materials can also transform into durable tile flooring. Both porcelain and ceramic tile use clay that’s baked to create a long-lasting flooring made from readily available materials. Since both tile options come from naturally-occurring clay, they qualify as an eco-friendly option.

Which flooring you choose depends on the area that you’re looking to install tile flooring. Porcelain is denser and more durable, making it ideal for kitchens, hallways, and other high-traffic sections of your home, whereas ceramic is more suited for bathrooms and kitchens.

7. Glass Tile Flooring

That glass bottle that you tossed in the recycling bin isn't the only type of glass that's recyclable. Glass tile is also a sustainable flooring material. It's easy to either purchase glass as recycled material or recycle the glass tiles when it's time to replace your flooring.  

The Glass Packaging Institute (GPI) states that glass is:

  • 100% recyclable

  • Recyclable time and time again

  • Made from abundant, domestic materials

  • More energy-efficient than other manufacturing products for floors (applies to cullet glass or recycled glass)

Keep in mind that while glass is very environmentally friendly, glass flooring is less durable than some other choices like ceramic or concrete.

8. Natural Stone Flooring

A house’s hallway with natural stone tiles
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Stone doesn't need additional materials to create the final product. Popular natural stone options include slate, limestone, granite, and marble. Depending on the type of natural stone you choose for your flooring, natural stone can be regionally manufactured to reduce the emissions released during the transportation process. 

According to natural stone research sponsored by the Natural Stone Institute, natural stone is:

  • Almost 100% recyclable

  • Requires minimal energy consumption to process into a final product

  • Extremely durable

  • Low-maintenance and therefore less cleaning supplies or replacement parts

  • Made with very few additives

9. Reclaimed Hardwood

A contemporary kitchen with reclaimed hardwood floor
Photo: KatarzynaBialasiewicz / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

If you can't bear to part with the warm, inviting feeling of hardwood floors, there is a way to make this option sustainable. Reclaimed hardwood is recycled wood previously used in another construction like old homes, warehouses, barns, and even railroads. 

Reclaimed wood isn’t just eco-friendly; it’s a practical investment due to its durability. Since reclaimed wood has aged, it's less likely to warp and has a denser grain than new wood, which hasn't had a chance to set and stabilize.

10. P.E.T. Flooring

No, P.E.T. flooring isn't for pets, nor is it E.T.'s new way to phone home. P.E.T. flooring is short for polyethylene terephthalate. This wordy material is a type of synthetic fiber made from recycled bottles and plastic—yes, those plastic jugs you've diligently recycled over the years really get recycled and turned into something new.

However, the downside to P.E.T. flooring is that it might contain more VOCs than the other, more natural flooring options. So if you have pets or children, it might be safer to opt for flooring with natural materials and leave this option for commercial buildings.

How to Find Green Flooring Options

There are many flooring options available on the market that are eco-friendly. If you have your heart set on a particular type of flooring, check labels and ask your local flooring specialist as many questions as you need to feel comfortable that you’re buying green. 

Among the questions you should ask are:

  • Does the product contain low or no VOCs?

  • Is the flooring made from renewable or sustainable materials?

  • What certifications does this product have?

  • Is the flooring sourced locally?

  • Do you recycle old flooring?

To fully understand how green your new flooring is, you might also want to know the transportation method used to get it from its point of origin to you. 

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