Carpet

The more I try to do the right thing by the environment the more I realise how hard it can be sometimes to do the right thing all the way. I know I sound like a conspiracy theory crazy person but it really does seem that many things are green-washed or just very careful about hiding the less natural aspects of something. And sometimes there really does seem to be no other option.

I am currently researching carpets for the new house and trying to make a choice that is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Sisal – Sisal is made from the fibres of the agave plant (Agave sisalana) as opposed to the Agave (Agave tequilana) which is used to make tequila (it would make choosing carpet a lot more fun. 😉 ) Sisal has been traditionally used to make twine and rope. The environmental impacts are the waste product resulting from the breaking up of the plant into fibres which can cause pollution if allowed into waterways but the plant needs no chemical fertilisers and needs few or no herbicides which is a huge point in its favour. I’ve not actually handled any sisal carpet though so I don’t know about its softness etc.
Wool – Wool can come from several animals, sheep being the first we think of but also goats, muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel and even rabbits – thanks Wiki 🙂 Most wool carpets I believe though are made from sheep wool. Wool carpets wear well, they dye well and they are naturally flame retardant, stain resistant and natural too, even though they may be treated with bleaches in order to strip natural colours before dyeing, insect repelling agents and other such chemicals. They are also comparatively expensive and from what I’ve seen they are still marketed as an item of luxury on tv. Wool to me seems one of the best choices available, but as one of my readers pointed out, there may very well be animal rights issues. 😦 Blending wool with fibres such as nylon makes it stronger and more durable and it’s often an 80/20 blend favouring wool. I can understand the appeal of blending.

Polyester – polyethylene terephthalate (PET) the recyclable plastic used for drink bottles. It’s sometimes made from LPG, a fossil fuel and since fossil fuels are non-renewable resources, it seems a waste for me to make carpet out of them when there are so many other alternatives for carpet. Old PET bottles can also be recycled, either into new PET bottles or into PET carpets, which in turn can be recycled again. This does add to its green credentials at least, but not enough for me.

Nylon – Yes, this is the same stuff as nylon stockings are made from. I’ve read and reread the wiki information on nylon and to me, all I can gather is that it’s made of chemicals and it’s a polymer – poly meaning many so I guess its made from many chemicals. I am no chemist but if I need to start sounding out the syllables in order to have half a go at pronouncing names, it’s usually not for me. However, in its favour it does print, dye and wear well as a carpet but does stain easily.

Polypropylene – This is the stuff that many kitchen plastics, green shopping bags  and Australian bank notes are also made from polypropylene. It seems to be a very versatile plastic but again it’s not natural and so it’s not for me. It is also difficult to dye and doesn’t wear as well as other synthetics, but it is cheap. It’s also sometimes known as olefin in the carpet industry.

Corn – yes I am referring to sweetcorn. The corn is changed into cornstarch then into a polymer. It’s a different form of plastic (bio-plastic) but it’s still a pretty synthetic even if it has come from a natural plant. Also, with all the GMO products around and with the GMO corn taking over the market I wonder how safe it is. Not to mention using food for things like carpets and fuels seems decadent to me when so many people around the world are starving.

As recommended by one of my readers missusmoonshine I checked out http://www.velieris.com who make alpaca and wool carpets. Thank you. 🙂 Initially I was disappointed as, although they use the natural colours of the wool which means no bleaching or dyeing, they were still partly synthetic blends. I have since come back to them and found that they do have 2 of their alpaca carpets that are a 70/30 blend in favour of alpaca wool. They have a limited colour range, 6 to be exact, ranging from white to charcoal but they have neutrals and browns which will complement our house. I have received information from them that “the only real option currently available is using a polypropylene backing” which makes me very sad but this may well be one of those compromises we have to make. 😦 However, as their wool is not dyed or chemically treated with insecticides, stain-blocks, repellents or flame retardant treatments this may be one of the better choices. I have a store location so will be checking it out.

The next part of this equation is the underlay. Seriously, if my brain wasn’t already badly fried by carpet research and 3 small children today! From an incredibly quick glance at a few pages, underlay appears to be often made using recycled fibres from the carpet, garment and plastics industries and recycled clothing. Yay for finding good news! I also found another underlay made from rubber My initial thought was petroleum based, followed by recycled tyres and off-gassing toxins but again, underlay seems to be a bit of a knight in green armour. This rubber underlay is made from natural rubber which is sourced by milking the rubber tree rather than cutting it down. 😀 Another underlay I found is polyurethane which sounds un-eco but it is made from 90% post consumer recycled product so it does have some green claim at least. My initial response is either the natural rubber or recycled clothing but it’s great to know that there is some environmentally friendly aspect to underlay.

Looks like I still have many hours of research to go but I do feel like I’ve at least narrowed the playing field somewhat. Do you have any knowledge on carpet purchasing? Or something else that you have researched the pants off?

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6 thoughts on “Carpet

  1. narf77 says:

    As a famous green amphibian who needs no introduction once said “It’s not easy being green…” 😉

  2. leonefabre says:

    we pulled all the carpet up prior to our move here and laid Bamboo Flooring right through …… we are super happy with the result.

    Not sure how you would feel about bamboo flooring, but for us it was better than anything else we came across. We did get the better quality one though … so probably paid a little more …. but it does not scratch or mark and is super easy to clean as you do not wash with anything other than plain water. NO DETERGENTS 🙂

    • We did look at bamboo quite seriously. Our choice not to go with it was the same reason not to go with floating boards and my issue with carpets containing synthetics – levels of VOC’s. Bamboo though is an incredibly sustainable timber, or grass really. It’s a fantastic choice environmentally.

  3. MJ Parker says:

    I’m looking at carpets now – particularly the veleiris alpaca carpet. Did you go with this? How is it wearing? Are you happy with it? Love some feedback:)

    • We didn’t go with it in the end as a) our sample never arrive and b) the price point was out of our league. We instead chose a 100% wool carpet we were luck to be able to get discount and installed nearly straight away.

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