For those who love carpet flooring, natural wool carpets are a healthy choice. But there are other green alternatives to synthetic carpet (and area rugs).
Acrylic, nylon, polypropylene and other synthetic carpet
Typical synthetic carpet flooring and area rugs are made of oil-based synthetic materials, responsible for the releasing of harmful chemicals; typically, the are backed with vinyl or other similar backing systems, making recycling impossible.
Synthetic carpets are nade of nylon, olefin (polypropylene), acrylic or other synthetic fibers.
All synthetic fibers are made from polymers obtained from petro-chemicals.
Acrylic fibers are synthetic fibers made from polyacrylonitrile; similarly, nylon is a broad designation for a family of semi-aromatic and aliphatic polyamides, and so on.
Although, carpets and area rugs made with these different synthetic fibers are inexpensive, they are a source of VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds), formaldehyde and allergens.
Though all carpet can harbor mold and allergens, synthetic carpet are especially prone to trap and hold dust, dander and chemicals. Many are treated with pesticides, and are toxic and may not be durable.
sisal, jute, seagrass carpets vs. synthetic carpet
That’s easy to find green carpet products made of sustainable raw-materials at low prices. You don't have to sacrifice your tastes, or to buy unhealthy products.
You have now jute carpets, seagrass carpets, sisal carpets, jute carpets... All made with natural fibers.
These green products are not necessariyl more expensive, or less durable or with a smaller range of colors and patterns than synthetic carpets and area rugs.
Avoid un-natural synthetic padding made from un-renewable materials; use water-based low-VOC glues when installing natural carpet products.Synthetic carpet is environmentally-unfriendly
Multiple studies have shown that syntethic carpeting (nylon, acrylic, olefin- -polypropylene...) are a source of VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds), formaldehyde and allergens.
Natural all wool carpet vs. synthetic products
All-natural wool is a good first choice when it comes to carpet and area rugs.
Natural wool is not-toxic and does not promote the growth of bacteria or dust mites; it has excellent thermal and sound insulation value; is durable, soil resistant, fire-resistant; is a natural, renewable resource, recyclable and biodegradable; it comes with multiple colors choices and patterns.
In cold climates, natural wool carpet – with a thick pad - minimizes conductive heat loss and gain, which can be important for comfort and energy savings.
Why synthetic carpet has fallen out of favor
Do not forget the reasons why carpet has fallen out of popularity. Traditional synthetic carpeting can be a cause of allergies and asthma, due to pests that can thrive in it. Besides, it has a low lifespan, and is too prone to stains and moisture problems.
Area rugs can also be excellent for floor comfort. Installed over bare floors, they can be used during the cold season and removed in the summer. They are a flexible solution.
The downsides: the price (natural wool carpet is a lot more expensive than synthetic products). Another possible disadvantage: some people are allergic to wool fibers; take it into account.
Natural wool vs. sisal, jute, seagrass carpets
Natural wool carpet is a lot more expensive than sisal, jute or seagrass and other green carpet products.
Natural thick wool products offer more comfort and higher insulation value.
Acrylic carpet vs. Wool Carpet and other green products
Acrylic carpet look nice and feels soft (like wool carpet) and it is a lot less expensive than wool carpet (prices can be very similar to those of sisal, jute and other green carpet products).
It has a good bulk and resilience, but also a tendency to fuzz and pill.
The main disadvantage (common to other synthetic carpet): acrylic carpet is a potential source of toxic chemicals and allergens.
Nylon, polypropylene carpets
Nylon and polypropylene carpet are very cheap choices. Though there are recycled nylon and polypropylene carpets, most aren’t.
Disadvantages (common to acrylic carpet): a potential source of allergens and toxic chemicals.
Recycled Carpet and Rugs
Consider natural fiber carpets and rugs made from recovered textile fiber; recycled-content carpets are as resilient and as colorfast as new carpets and come with the same warranties and prices. They are an effective way of reducing the vast amounts of carpet disposed of each year.
Obviously, recycled-content carpets should be made from natural fibers. That’s why certifications as Green Label Plus (of the Carpet and Rug Institute) are so important.
Why many people love carpeting
Most carpet products are inexpensive (say, on average $2-$3 per square feet) and easy to install, and can add warmth to a room.
Healthy sustainable natural carpet manufacturers
There are many carpet manufacturers producing natural carpet flooring and area rug products. Here are some major companies: Contempo Floor Coverings, Natural Home, GreenFloors.com, Interfaceflooring, Milliken carpet, Jinvision, Mohawk industries, Shaw Contract Group.
Traditional synthetic and toxic carpets are difficult or impossible to recycle. But there are some organizations committed to recycling part of the billions of pounds of carpets that are being disposed of to landfills, each year. That’s the case of Carpet Recovery in North America. If you are buying new carpet flooring, buy it from companies with recycling take-back programs.