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Reader says shopping for chemical-free carpet spurs confusion Dear Natural Interiors: Your blog and the Natural Housewife got me thinking about indoor-air quality, and wool carpeting, because I am getting ready to replace old carpet in my home. But after going to a local flooring store, I am really confused. The salesman showed me some wool carpets, but they all had been treated with mothproofing chemicals, and some contained synthetic materials, too. I said I did not want chemical emissions, but he said I would be okay with any brand in the store – even synthetics made from petrochemicals -- because they all had CRI Green Label Plus. When I named Nature’s Carpet, the salesman pulled out a box of small carpet pieces from under the counter. But I know from going online that there are a lot more styles than the ones he had. He said that he only kept the box for people who specifically asked for it, and that it really wasn’t needed because of all the advances in limiting chemical emissions. So, what’s the deal?

An everyday choice on the West Coast, linoleum is misunderstood in some regions In some areas of the country, people think linoleum is the same thing as vinyl. But on the west coast and east – where green products have been in greater demand for years – consumers not only know that linoleum is a natural, sustainable product, but they also depend on it for high style. And there is one manufacturer – Forbo -- that is dominating the market by meeting the all the needs of these green-savvy consumers, says John Hill, ecological coordinator at Interstate Flooring in Portland, OR. “Forbo’s colors have kept up with design trends, and they are the only ones offering a click product that homeowners can even install themselves,” Hill says. “Until last year, Marmorette (from Forbo competitor Armstrong) had a color pallet that was way too ‘pastelly’ for the west coast, and even though that has improved, they don’t offer a click.”

FSC-certified manufacturing facility does not mean certified flooring or healthy indoor-air quality If DuChateau Floors were the only company offering a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified hardwood floor with an oil finish that emits no chemicals, we would not be living in the United States of America. In the land where competition abounds, customers who want the “greenest” product – one that is best for human health and also benefits the planet -- are a priority for a number of manufacturers. But so are those who do not have the budget for an FSC-certified product with a finish proven to have low-chemical emissions. The end result is a selection of products that range from the “greenest,” to the not so “green,” and it is often up to you to know how to tell the difference.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This article was accurate as of the date it was published, and was signed off on by all of the manufacturer sources quoted. That said, manufacturers frequently change their formulations and ingredients, so this article, given its age, becomes background. DO NOT rely on this article for purchasing these manufacturers’ current products. The questions are relatively simple, but if you would like help in getting guaranteed answers about certifications on a current product, sign up at: https://www.naturalinteriors.com/consumer-subscription/ Low-VOC, zero-VOC and “non-toxic” don’t mean "safe" Looking for a “non-toxic” paint?  There’s a reason for putting the word in quotes. You will have some work to do before you pick up a brush or roller. Paint manufacturers don’t have to list the ingredients they use on the can. Some chemicals in paint are difficult to eliminate because they are present in earth materials used to make paint. Unless you’re experienced in chemistry, you might not know what to look for on the Manufacturer’s Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). And, many toxic irritants don’t have to be listed there anyway. There are multiple standards and differing certifications for what makes paint “safe.” And knowing which chemical to avoid is a task all its own. “For those of us who place indoor-air quality on our list of building objectives, responsibility must begin and end with ourselves,” says Jay Watts, marketing director for AFM Safecoat.

A decade of mistakes I wasn’t wise enough to learn from others guides my New Year My father always said that a wise person learns from the mistakes of others. But what happens when you don’t know anyone who made the mistake you’re about to make, and you don’t know you’re about to make a mistake? When I hired a flooring company to install solid strip hardwood flooring in 1998, I was not yet working in the flooring industry. How was I supposed to know to ask about the chemical emissions that would fill the house when they finished the floor with a toxic, oil-based polyurethane? Okay, some people would argue that I should have investigated when the installer mentioned he had liver damage, and assigned the cause to his profession. He did not expound about finishes or less-toxic, water-based options. So, I assumed he was talking about a different liquid all together.

Consider origin, construction, chemical emissions, innovation and responsiveness when you choose cork flooring The call was one no flooring retailer wants.  The customer was furious. Her husband had damaged the cork flooring Cline’s Carpets had just installed in her home outside of West Lafayette, Ind. “She was really honked off, not at us, but at her husband who had done something that took a divot out of the floor,” owner Cary Cline recalls. But a strange thing happened when Cline’s installer went out the next day to make a repair. He couldn’t find any damage. “The flooring had healed itself,” Cline says. Cork flooring, invented more than 100 years ago, is known for its ability to bounce back from abuse. Today’s construction -- which includes engineered flooring and an array of stronger finishes -- has led to a dramatic increase in sales during the past decade.

Does a material that naturally resists mold need Microban? The definitive answer isn’t proven. But USFloors has made up its mind. USFloors, in addition to Qu-Cork supplier Global Market Partners, added Microban – a mold inhibitor – to their cork flooring products some time ago. While Qu-Cork still feels this was a cutting-edge move, USFloors has decided to focus on other ways to lead. At issue, says USFloors Marketing Director Gary Keeble Jr., are concerns about unknown, long-term effects of Triclosan – a bacteria killer that is used in Microban and many consumer products, including toothpaste. While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved Triclosan, both agencies have called for more review of the chemical in light of studies that show it alters hormone regulation in animals and might contribute to making bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

U.S. Green Building Council’s certified wood vote ends Nov. 23, while debate over which certification is best intensifies You’ve probably heard about it somewhere.  The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has for some time been considering revisions to rules that determine what wood products qualify as sustainably harvested. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification to date has been the only certification that qualifies a product for credit under Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), an important “green” building rating system.  The proposal, with voting to conclude Nov. 23, has long been anticipated as a document that would open the door for Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certification and others. “Okay, that’s nice,” you say. “But why do I care?” Because your understanding of these certifications -- and the availability of products that have them -- will affect choices you can make to protect the planet, and possibly, your pocketbook.

National effort to recycle carpet diverts more than 300 million pounds a year from landfills, but some complain of roadblocks John Hughes doesn’t need to watch Green Master’s Natural Interiors® TV presentation this week. He could have written the script. He has been thinking about the health of the planet for a long time. And he is getting a little frustrated. Hughes, president and owner of O’Briens Carpet One Floor & Home in Colorado Springs, Co., has installed solar panels to reduce the energy needed to run his business. He recycles the wood he tears out when replacing a customer’s floor in addition to all of the rebond carpet pad he replaces. He has tried, repeatedly, to have a successful program for recycling his carpet tear-outs, too.