Is there such a thing as sustainable carpets?

When you look at embodied energy carpets don’t come out very well. Lots of energy can go into them in the form of:






So how can we get to lower ‘carbon’ carpets?

Well there are a few alternatives:

1. Re-used carpet tiles. Cleanstream carpets (based in South Wales) collect carpet tiles from offices, grade them and then sell them on. These tiles are about one quarter of the original cost and their A grade tiles look as good as new. Why waste tiles that have spent all their life under desks, cabinets and at the edges of offices? For more info have a look at what is in stock at Cleanstream Carpets website

2. Natural carpets. There are a wide range of accessible carpets made from natural grasses and materials – Sisal, Coir etc. A problem can occur with these when it comes to fitting. As a natural product the carpet will expand and contract slightly with changes in humidity and temperature. Carpet fitters don’t like this and generally will refuse to fit it, as they offer a guarantee on the quality of installation. If they do fit they will use a huge amount of glue in order to try and stop the movement. This glue stinks and almost negates the benefits of the natural carpet in the first place. However these natural fibres are hard wearing and attractive.

3. Wool carpets. Surely a wool carpet is the best solution. We ll it can be, but many wool carpets are still high embodied energy as the wool is bleached and dyed before use and also can have a synthetic backing and conventional glues. Again they are hard wearing and are much more stable and hence there is no problem with fitting.

So is there an alternative?

There are a few manufacturers however that make un-bleached and un-dyed wool carpets that have natural cotton backing and natural latex backing. These are stable in their make-up and hence present no problem with fitting or guaranteeing. Due to the use of minimally treated natural materials used in the manufacture, the embodied energy is radically reduced in these products.

Underlay and glues

Before we forget there are another couple of elements here.

Underlay. There are a range of choices here that are eco-friendly. You can use: Recycled cotton (felt) and recycled tyres (rubber) are excellent uses for recycled products. The tyres are good for stairs and the felt for living rooms. Do not use the foams as these off-gas and also slowly degrade and you end up with a dust after a few years.

Glue. If carpets are fitted properly you do not need to use glues. Fitters don’t like this, but insist! The glue is really smelly and can make the room uninhabitable for a few days.

One manufacturer of natural woollen carpets is Alternative Flooring and their Eco Collection.