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Top eco-friendly floors

Five green solutions for floors, from sustainable lumber, tile, and linoleum to cork

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Cork

  • Eco-friendly cork floor

LINOLEUM

What it is: Linseed oil, pigments, and pine rosin. Invented more than 150 years ago, linoleum remains one of the greenest products sold. It comes in many colors and patterns, doesn't require waxing, and can be cleaned with soap and water. Some have snap-together panels.

What makes it green: It's made of natural, renewable resources, no toxic or VOC-outgassing products are used in its production, and it inhibits bacterial growth. (Chemically sensitive people should be aware that it carries the distinct smell of linseed oil.) Click-together flooring doesn't require gluing.

Cost and contact info: $4-$6 per sq. ft. (tiles) or $30-$40 per sq. yd. (sheets). At flooring stores and green-building outlets such as Environmental Home Center (800/281-9785) and Eco Design Resources (650/591-1123).

CORK

What it is: Bark from cork oak trees makes warm, resilient, sound-absorbing flooring. Appropriate for most rooms, including bathrooms (where installed tiles are coated with polyurethane or silicone). Many patterns, natural browns, and applied colors. Compatible sealants are recommended.

What makes it green: Cork oak bark is sustainably harvested every 10 years, and the trees, native to the Mediterranean region, often live 100 years. The cork sheets used for flooring often are made from the salvaged by-products of wine cork manufacturing.

Cost and contact info: $6-$8 per sq. ft. (12- by 12-in. tiles) or $7-$9 per sq. ft. (1- by 3-ft. snap-together planks). Manufacturers include Expanko (800/345-6202), Natural Cork (800/404-2675), and Nova Distinctive Floors (866/576-2458). The Environmental Home Center (800/281-9785) also carries in-house brands that are finished with hard-wax oil, which doesn't cover up the natural texture of the cork.

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