Installing an eco-friendly floor is a stylish way to improve your living space while treading a bit more lightly on the planet at the same time. For style, pricing and availability in Canada, your top eco-chic choices are bamboo, linoleum, cork and—one of our favourites—reclaimed or recycled hardwood. Here's a rundown of our top flooring choices, listed from least to most expensive.
Bamboo flooring offers a modern, Asian-inflected look that's incredibly loft- or condo-friendly. A fast-growing grass that requires no pesticides or fertilizers to thrive, bamboo is a renewable resource par excellence: not only can a stand of bamboo be harvested for "wood" every five years, it produces 35% more oxygen than an identically sized grove of trees! Available in planks that range from three-inches to six-inches-wide, bamboo comes in trendy transparent stains, as well as luxe hand-scraped distressed finishes to replicate exotic rainforest hardwoods. Farmed bamboo provides habitat for birds, and isn't the same species that pandas like to eat. Very durable, water-resistant and antimicrobial.
Caveats: Very strong, yet anecdotal evidence points to a tendency to scuff; buy at the higher end of the price scale to get a more durable finish.
Approximate Canadian price without installation: From $2 to $4/sq. ft
This circa-1870's invention is enjoying a renaissance right now, thanks to its eco-cred. In fact, this linseed oil/pine resin/ wood flour/jute-backed product is often architects' go-to eco flooring in commercial settings, and is gaining popularity in homes, especially for kitchens and playrooms. Forbo's Marmoleum is the top brand of linoleum and an environmentally responsible manufacturer to boot. Marmoleum comes in 1" x 1" tiles, 2-metre-wide sheets (cut to your desired length), and 1' x 3' click-in floating panels. It's non-toxic and biodegradable, yet boasts a 40 -year lifespan, and is antimicrobial.
Caveat: Make sure you're getting real linoleum flooring and not a synthetic version containing eco-unfriendly polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Approximate Canadian price without installation: From $4 to $7/sq. ft
Cork flooring feels great beneath your feet. It's warm and shock absorbing. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree (without destroying it), and is both highly durable and water-resistant, making it a great option for many areas, especially the kitchen and playroom. (Or basements, which can get chilly: that's where its insulating properties really shine!) It's covered with a UV-resistant acrylic, adding to its longevity. As far as eco-chic styling goes, cork flooring has got a casually upscale kind of charm: think West Coast beach house or wine-country retreat. As an aside: the wine industry's switch towards synthetic "corks" is threatening the traditional Mediterranean cork industry, so buying cork flooring helps support cork harvesting communities.
Caveats: More prone to scuff than other options, so not suited to high-traffic hallways. Likely to need replacing in 10-15 years.
Approximate Canadian price without installation: $4 to $8/sq. ft
Antique or reclaimed hardwood flooring
Finally, an eco-holic decorista's dream come true: beautifully rustic wide-plank wood flooring that re-uses planks "harvested" from out-of-use barns, century homes and factories, not old growth forests. Here's how it works: a property owner calls a salvager to take down an old barn and haul away the mess. The boards are sorted, de-nailed and kiln-dried, then planed and tongue-and-grooved for installation ease. Random-width planks are installed so your hardwood flooring avoids a cookie-cutter uniformity, and staining and finishing is done on-site post-installation to further ensure you get the bespoke look of your dreams. Whether you live in a century home or a loft conversion (or anything in between), antique hardwood flooring is guaranteed to give it instant design cred. The naturally distressed patina means it just looks better and better with age. As a bonus, though, as with cork, you're supporting smaller-scale industry as opposed to corporations. Durable, water-resistant and will last practically forever. Check out Woodstock family business Revival Flooring for information on a number of reclaimed wood options, ranging from antique hemlock barnboard to rare antique chestnut and heart pine.
Caveats: Rare varieties may require longer wait times for delivery; costlier than other options.
Approximate Canadian price without installation: $5 to $13/sq. ft depending on type of wood.