Flooring manufacturers are not neophytes in producing and defining products that speak green. Anderson’s Tropical Reflections, shown here, uses the EnCore environmentally friendly core.

With the subject of sustainability, the facts are in and without a doubt it is now a viable, enduring trend where flooring is concerned. Even the National Association of Home Builders has verified this, stating: “The green building marketplace is expected to be worth $40 to $70 billion by the year 2012.”

Green is affecting every area of the residential market, including remodeling and redesign. And that’s where your expertise comes into play. Every retailer in this country (and your sales staff) needs to be able to navigate features and benefits of the green products on your floor.

Everything matters when talking green -- from manufacturing processes and conservation of natural resources, to the product itself and its afterlife attributes. If your staff is not already well versed in taking your customer on a green tour of your showroom floor, it’s imperative they do their homework now and take sustainability seriously.  

Luckily, flooring products manufacturers are not neophytes in producing and defining products that speak green. Here are some real life stand-outs that certainly deserve attention:

Bamboo Floors

Bamboo comes close to being a synonym for eco-friendly. Of course you already know it is a rapidly renewable resource -- and compared to hardwood forests, which take 60 years or longer to mature, bamboo reaches maturity in about six years.  

As with hardwood floors, not all bamboo floors are equal. Look for reputable manufacturers that offer real-life warranties. Price is often an indicator as well. Products that are not well crafted may have an attractive price tag, but consumers will pay the price in lack of stability and durability. Bamboo needs to be harvested and manufactured properly, and given that criteria, it will perform beautifully in the home environment for many years.

For info pertinent to bamboo suppliers, check in with the American Bamboo Society online at www.americanbamboo.org.

Cork Floors

Softer underfoot than most hard surface floors, warm, and totally natural - these are the main attractions of cork. It is important to note that only the bark of the tree is peeled off to be used in cork flooring. The tree itself is never cut down and these trees have an average 500-year lifespan.

Cork floors can insulate against temperature changes and offer natural anti-microbial protection and mildew resistance. They also resist moisture and stains, which are two of the most in-demand features for flooring. But your customers will be most interested in the aesthetics. Cork floors lend themselves to sleek, contemporary beauty, but can sport a fun-loving look as well.

APC Cork is one of the leading providers of cork in North America. What sets them apart is the creativity and fun factor built into their floors. Their Kids Collection showcases game-themed styles and tot-to-teen colors that you would never expect in a cork floor. Patterns include: Building Blocks, Domino, Hopscotch and Fruit Stripes.

Also check out their Gem Collection, showing a designer palette of colors like Amber, Meteorite, Rose Quartz and Topaz. But you don’t have to be a designer to appreciate something refreshingly different.

CERES natural floors have been a go-to source for a very long time for environmentally conscious architects, designers, facility managers and end-users. Their cork veneer floors come in a contemporary palette of spice colors, all inspired by nature and featuring a ceramic oxide finish to stand up to commercial wear and tear. These ceramic micro-beads are tough - second only to industrial diamonds in strength and durability, and are also environmentally friendly.

US Floors of Dalton is a veteran at producing unique and sustainable floors. Their natural cork brand is well known among Greenbuild designers and architects and they offer some totally unique looks produced in the United States. Their New Dimensions line showcases beautiful, wide cork tiles and coordinating narrow planks with beveled edges. The design possibilities of creating a one-of-a-kind custom floor, mixing the products within the line, are enticing. Their Wide Tile Jerusalem is a stand-out - a lighter toned cork floor with marbleized colorations running through it.

WE Cork has introduced their Classic Collection - available in a glueless floating floor system. These new additions come in a variety of shades and patterns, each earning their place as a classic. Baroque Castle, Renaissance Earth and Romance Cabernet give you a little insight as to what awaits you in this line. Available in tiles or planks with a microbevel profile, each product comes with the Unilin locking system. Timeless tiles and planks are finished with Greenshield and are suitable for light commercial or residential use.

Wood Floors

Being a responsible manufacturer is critical in bringing sustainable hardwood floors to market. There are guidelines and laws on the books, such as the recently passed amendments to the Lacey Act, to prevent the plunder of rare species being imported from other countries.

Manufacturers are asked to practice due diligence when importing products and ensure they are using only legally harvested materials. What we see in response is conscientious manufacturing utilizing FSC-certified forests when possible, and participation in the NWFA’s Responsible Procurement Program, which offers three levels of increasing certification to manufacturers that source from responsibly managed forests.

Customers want to feel good about their flooring decisions. Manufacturers’ excellent level of compliance with the Lacey Act, as well as green ratings many manufacturers have earned, go a long way in providing that feeling.

Here’s a snapshot of what some of the major hardwood flooring manufacturers are doing to align themselves with sustainability and green practices:

Anderson/Shaw – Anderson favors FSC-certified domestic forests as its main source for hardwoods. Although they do import some of their woods, compliance with Lacey Act provisions are paramount to them. They have earned GREENGUARD certification, which addresses air quality, and offer floors with the patented PermaColor process, which bakes the wood to achieve through-color without the use of stains. Parent company Shaw is also well-regarded for its green flooring including Epic hardwood flooring, which features the EnviroCore inner layer made from recycled wood fibers.

Armstrong – The majority of hardwoods Armstrong utilizes comes from North America. That’s an important fact and very reassuring for your green-conscious customers. They have made a corporate commitment to sustainability, and participate in many programs that enrich homeland forests and promote natural regeneration of hardwoods.

BR-111 – Imported woods used in the fabrication of this company’s exotic wood flooring are all from Brazil and in compliance with the terms of the Lacey Act. Trees are harvested with the goal to protect Brazil’s natural resources. Additionally, plywood cores for their hardwoods are made from recycled pre-consumer materials.

EarthWerks – Offers a complete menu of earth-friendly products, including hardwood. EarthWerks’ flooring combines sustainability attributes with fashion-forward looks.

Kahrs – Located in Sweden, the company ensures that 88% of its raw materials are harvested from a local forest. For every tree harvested, five are planted in its place. Water-based stains and solvent-free finishes also contribute to a green product.

Mohawk – Mohawk offers engineered hardwoods with PureBond Technology (which eliminates formaldehyde adhesives normally used in manufacturing). This process has earned Mohawk’s engineered hardwoods FloorScore Certification.

Mullican - Several of their collections feature products made from recycled woods obtained from razed structures. Their Nature Collection is designed to embrace the natural imperfections of wood to offer wood floors with character. Knots, natural streaking and mineral deposits add to the authenticity.

Of course, green flooring extends to other hard surface categories, as well as soft surfaces. But for consumers looking for a “straight from nature” hard surface floor, you can’t go wrong with cork, bamboo or hardwood. The industry’s commitment to manufacture responsibly is long-term. We can expect to see more amazing products in the years ahead that not only preserve our natural resources, but continue to enrich our living environment as well.