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Interview With a Green Expert: Choosing an Eco Floor

By: Mary Williams BA (hons) - Updated: 14 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Eco Floor Eco Flooring Eco Floor

“Tigger” is building manager of the Greenhouse Trust, an environment education charity. The charity’s own building is a working model of how old properties can be upgraded to meet the energy challenges of the 21st century using renewable technologies, high standards of insulation and design. The charity offers booklets and magazines that cover everything from building design, to ethical shopping and organic and Fairtrade food and goods. Here Tigger offers advice on choosing an eco floor.

Q: Do you often get asked for advice about environmentally friendly products for the home?

A: Yes, is the short answer. But as I am the only member of staff here (part-time) we also actively promote our website as a quicker and easier way of getting hold of information.

Q: Which areas do people seem particularly interested in?

A: How to save money on energy bills, insulate their homes, grow their own food, source organic/local vegetables and introductory information on climate change (i.e. what they can do). Our shop answers a steady flow of dietary, health, food supply enquiries and offers general product information too.

Q: In what situations do people ask you about flooring?

A: We take groups of people on tours of the building, and include Timber and Flooring issues in the presentation. People also ask for advice if they want to carry out work on their own homes.

Q: What should people think about if they want an environmentally friendly floor?

A: If they want a wooden floor, they should try to re-use timber where possible. If they are looking for something new then make sure the wood has an FSC (Forest Stewardship Certificate) on it. Re-use old tiles and other materials already in the building.

Q: Is it best to try to save an old floor where possible?

A: Yes! Although if the timber is rotten or diseased, then obviously not. The wider issue here is that if you re-use, the percentage of re-useable timber will be reduced. Re-using in a smaller room and thinking about how best to use what you have is case specific.

Q: If they want or need a new floor, is there anything in particular they should avoid?

A: Avoid timber that isn't certificated. Also avoid composite boards with toxic glues. But this is a short answer to a very big question. Try the Green Building Magazine for lots more useful information.

Q: Is there any flooring that is particularly good?

A: The shop here has a marmoleum floor. This is a high quality lino product, which is a good green product. It can be bought from a range of sources. Look for other environmentally friendly products from renewable sources, such as cork or bamboo. The other important issue is to make sure that you improve the insulation below the floor.

Q: What questions should they ask suppliers?

A: Again, ask to see the FSC certification. This avoids having to have misleading conversations with suppliers. I've been to various merchants and been told huge fibs. Without a certificate you have to do lots of research and the consumer is easily misled. With second-hand timber you are in a different game. Ask where it came from. Lots of “re-used” timber is actually just clearance of new timber (so it could easily be European forests being felled). If the supplier tells you that it comes from local houses being demolished, or an old school or industrial site, it is more likely to be genuine. It is also interesting to know the history of your flooring.

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