The Sustainable Series-Part 2. Carpet & Rug Choices
Polished concrete and timber floorboards have long been thought of as the go to choice for sustainable flooring options due to their passive thermal benefits of internal temperature control.
However, carpet can offer many benefits if selected thoughtfully and used in the correct space, especially in regards to warmth and comfort underfoot, noise reduction and insulation.
There are environmental factors to consider though, not the least is the relatively short life span of carpet when compared to the harder flooring options. There is also the fact that fibers sourced from agricultural methods can have many varied ecological impacts depending on the method of production, land and water usage and the associated outputs from the farm itself.
On a plus side, certain components of carpets do have the ability to be recycled, however the current rates of doing so in Australia are still very low. The majority of carpet or rugs discarded end up being sent to landfill, where depending on its composition, could take 50 years to break down whilst releasing green house gases during this process.
Or sadly, if comprised of synthetic fibers from petrochemical sources it may never breakdown.
So how do we make a conscious choice that fulfills our need for comfort and softness whilst adhering to our sustainable principals? It’s easy to appreciate how confusing this may be, especially for those building or renovating a new home where the amount of decisions you are required to make can at times feel quite overwhelming.
A great place to start is by looking at alternative fibers like sisal, jute, coir and sea-grass, as they can be grown without the input of chemicals and are generally naturally antimicrobial. Be mindful though that these may not suit more humid climates and conditions.
Floorspace, located in Melbourne is a great place to start exploring your options, their products are made with fully sustainable and natural resources and feature over 40 different weaves, textures and colors. Not only can their range can be laid wall to wall, it can also be customized into specific sized rugs.
Consider their Herringbone Maple, which is made from banana leaf and offers exceptional luxury
Or the custom dyed Braid Weave in Ebony
Godfrey Hirst offer an eco+ carpet which is made from natural corn sugar. The manufacturing process creates less greenhouse gases than the production of nylon and it requires no chemical treatments to maintain it, simply clean with water! They have an incredible range (click here to view)
with Coastal Weave and Unwind being 2 popular choices.
Blessed Earth stock both rugs and carpets which are handmade using traditional methods from organic cotton, wool or silk. They describe wool as hard wearing and long lasting as well as resistant to flame, dirt and stains and state that cotton is a great option for those with sensitive skin, allergies or asthma due to it being hypoallergenic, with silk is the most hypoallergenic of all.
Silk is warm and cosy during colder months and yet comfortably cool in the Summer. It is highly absorbent, dries quickly and even though it appears fragile, it is actually incredibly robust. Possibly even matching steel yarn in terms of tensile strength.
Wool offers substantial insulation benefits and is naturally antibacterial. However, the environmental impact of sheep farming regarding land and water use, methane pollution and soil degradation is worth weighing up.
Some wool carpet manufactures now offer colours that are entirely dependent on the sheep themselves. By this I mean that the sheep are segregated and sheared according to the colour of their wool, allowing for subtle differences in carpet hues without the use of dyes.
Wool offers inherent fire-resistant characteristics, where other fibers require the addition of chemicals to improve their dust, mould, stain, flame and insect resistance.
Cavalier Bremworth, a member of the Australian Green Building Council, state that all of their carpets have a Level 4 Environmental Certification Scheme rating, indicating that they employ best practice standards during carpet production. They were also a founding member of the New Zealand Green Building Council and boast being the first broadloom carpet company to achieve Environmental Choice Certification across its entire carpet range.
The Astoria Range is a beautiful option, made from 100% pure New Zealand felted wool
As is the Tussore Range, here in Lupine. It is a tailored Loop pile carpet with fantastic durability due to its unique felted construction.
Regarding the selection of your carpet backing, rubber backing does offer good insulation, however it will generally emit more VOC’S (Volatile Organic Compounds that are generally gassed off, giving that "new carpet aroma") than other more natural fibers like jute. PVC backing which is 100% recycled is starting to become available, although not yet viewed as standard whilst felt backing is another option which is produced by plant fibers and offers both insulation and underfoot comfort.
As recommended on the website www.geca.eco.com.au the Cloudwalk underlay has been awarded a green star for sustainability and is a great option.
Elk & Earth an Australian owned and operated business also have a stunning range of 100% merino felt circle rugs that are absolutely divine and would complement any space in a home.
At the end of the day, your choices will need to reflect both your personal values and project budget.
The more sustainably produced products and materials are sought and requested, the more readily available they will become. Therefore, when considering choices for your next project I urge you to think beyond simply colours and patterns and look to the other components like manufacturing procedures, fiber sources and product longevity before you make your final choice.