How to Replace the Carpet in Your Old House in a Green, Eco-Friendly Way
Old carpet is a hazard to your old house's environment. And if you're not careful, new carpet may not be so eco-friendly, either.
If you have ever ripped out old carpet, you understand the filth trap it is--dirt permeating the carpet, more dirt covering the carpet pad, and still more dirt filtering through the pad to the subfloor.
Even with regular vacuuming and shampooing, a carpet 10 years old will harbor an unimaginable collection of dirt, dust, and mites. And if you've had pets, the filth may be compounded with hair, dander, and, well, unwelcome surprises.
If your old house needs new carpets, and if you have a powerful desire to keep the renovation green, you may face several issues:
- How to remove and dispose of the carpet in an environmentally friendly way
- Making sure that your new carpet is free of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxins
- Ensuring that your new carpet is made of the most eco-friendly material available
No matter how careful you are, dust will fly when you pull up the old carpet. Be as gentle with it as possible so you don't create a flurry. Wear a dust mask, and take an industrial-strength shower when you are finished.
Billions of tons of old carpet are dumped into landfills annually. There is a growing effort to keep the old material out of the dumps, and a quick Web search will tell you if there are collection centers near you.
Most of today's carpet actually has low emissions of VOCs. Keep in mind, though, that adhesives and padding used in installation are also likely to emit VOCs. Look for carpet that is certified to be low in VOCs by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI). If possible, use tack strips to install the carpet, rather than adhesives--if adhesives are necessary, use one that is low in VOCs.
If possible, have the carpet aired out for a few days before it is brought into your home to reduce the VOCs, and air out your house as much as possible for a couple of days after installation.
Manufacturers with an eye to the eco-friendly market are producing carpeting from recycled materials--plastic bottles, tires, and even old carpet. And they are making synthetic fibers that are recyclable in the future so that today's carpet can be easily recycled at the end of its lifetime.
Used in carpets for ages, wool is a wonderful option. Plant material, such as jute, sisal, and abaca (a form of hemp) is also used in carpets, though it's not as gentle to the foot.
So if you are driven by environmental concerns when you work on your old house, there are several green issues to consider.
Manufacturers introduce new carpet materials and styles each year. Do a little shopping around for the right combination of style, comfort and eco-friendliness.