Most bamboo for flooring comes from the Hunan province of China. It's not a food source for pandas, which generally inhabit higher-elevation forests. Despite the long-distance transport of the product to the United States, the durability, hardness, and short regeneration time of bamboo provide justification for using it for flooring instead of conventionally harvested wood. Bamboo is typically processed without preservatives or with benign boric acid, but more toxic preservatives are occasionally used when unprocessed poles are exported. Most bamboo flooring is glued together with urea-formaldehyde binders, which is the primary negative aspect. As the popularity and availability of bamboo increases, so does the need for uniform and credible certification of green attributes.
Vast quantities of used carpet end up in landfills each year—more than 1.7 million tons, according to recent estimates. Carpet accounts for approximately 1% of all municipal solid waste by weight, and roughly 2% by volume. Programs to recycle carpet waste are, thus, extremely important. Recycling was made easier by the content labeling program instituted in 1996. Some collected carpet is now, or soon will be, recycled into new carpet.
Tile is an inherently low-toxic, waterproof, durable finish material for flooring, walls, and other applications. While tile is somewhat energy-intensive to manufacture, the materials involved are readily available and mined with fairly low impact.
Countertops have particular performance demands because of their high use and exposure to water, especially at the seams of sink cutouts and backsplashes. A variety of suitable countertop products with environmental advantages are available. Ceramic tile or natural linoleum surfaces also offer green countertop options.
Masonite Interior Doors
The Emerald line of Safe ‘N Sound solid-core interior passage doors from Masonite offers a greener alternative—at a price premium of 20%–25%—to the company’s other offerings. Although all Safe ‘N Sound doors have wheat-straw cores, the Emerald doors contain no added urea-formaldehyde and use wood certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards.
Air-supply and return ducts can be a medium for mold growth or (with insulated ducts) a source of fiber-shedding, both of which can pose significant indoor air quality concerns. Also included are specialized insulation products for piping and other mechanical equipment. For hydronic heating pipes that experience high temperature (over 150 degrees F), inexpensive foam-plastic pipe insulation sleeves may not be adequate; high-temperature pipe insulation is required.