Try this: Select a spot in your home and lie down on the floor. Is it the kitchen? Give the floor a little lick. Or the living room? Put your nose on the carpet and take a really deep breath. Then, wander into the bathroom and check out the porcelain “drinking fountain.” Okay, stop the experiment. You get the idea: this is your home from your dog’s point of view. You generally experience your surroundings from a five- or six-foot elevation, but your dog is much closer—and much more inclined to sample her surroundings.
While there isn’t one set definition for “green” or “eco” buildings, there are important general concepts to bear in mind: Energy efficiency, size (it matters), sustainability, use of recycled materials and low impact. Considering that the average US household is responsible for twice the greenhouse gas emissions as the average car, energy efficiency tops the list—aim for good insulation throughout your home, well-sealed heating and cooling ducts, windows and doors weather-stripped, and energy-efficient appliances and lighting. (More tips can be found at epa.gov.)
If you are remodeling or redecorating, use resource-smart building materials, which are safer for you and your dog as well as for the environment. And, before you purchase flooring material, or even paint for your walls, give some thought to the environmental consequences of your choices. Even small changes can have a big impact. Consider using traditional materials—beeswax polish and vinegar and lemon juice for cleaning, for example—zero to low-VOC paint (latex), finishes and adhesives; and non-aerosol products.
Follow suggestions laid out by green-building expert Jennifer Roberts in her book, Good Green Homes. When you are selecting home furnishings or building materials, ask yourself (or the retailer or product manufacturer) the following questions:
• Is it safe and healthy to use in my home?
• Will it introduce irritants or off-gas potentially harmful chemicals?
• Will I need to use harsh chemicals to clean or maintain it?
• Is the harvesting or manufacturing process safe and healthy for workers?
• Is there a safe way to reuse, recycle or dispose of it when I’m done with it?
It is easy being green these days, and a little research will lead you to many good, environmentally sound alternatives. Your dog’s life, not to mention your own and your family’s, will be the better for it.
Green Flooring Materials
Many kinds of flooring materials can be considered green, including:
There are basically two types of wood: softwoods, which come from rapidly growing trees like pine and fir, and hardwoods, such as oak, maple, teak, etc. Be sure all wood is FSC certified and does not come from old-growth trees. Even better, use reclaimed/recycled wood. Wood flooring is easy to clean with simple products like vinegar and water. Only use zero- to low-VOC and plant-based sealants.
There are more than a thousand different species of this fast-growing woody grass. It is stronger than most hardwoods, and, like wood, can be sanded and refinished multiple times. (Luckily, the type used for flooring is not the kind pandas feed on.) After harvesting, it quickly regenerates. TIP: Even if it comes factory-finished, experts recommend resealing it to protect it from doggy water-bowl spills.
Made from linseed oil, a byproduct of flax (Oleum Lini). It is antibacterial, making it ideal in kitchens and bathrooms. It is also antistatic, so it repels dust and dirt. It comes in a wide range of colors, and even though it does offgas due to the oxidation of lineolic acid, it is less harmful than vinyl, and is considered to be more environmentally friendly.
From the outer bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber). The bark naturally sheds and regrows about once a decade, so harvesting does not harm the tree. Cork resists rot and mold and makes a great sound-absorber and insulator. It also adds an extra cushioning and “bounce” to the step, great for the long-standing cook and indoor ball-tossing!
Other good flooring materials to consider are concrete, brick, tile (ceramic, porcelain and glass), terrazzo and stone.