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If you have been in the market for hardwood flooring or just paying attention to recent trends, you’ve likely seen the terms “green” and “sustainable” used frequently. They’re often used for everything from coffee to trash bags to hardwood floors. They seem to be used interchangeably, but are they the same thing? When it comes to hardwood floors, they are not the exact same thing. They’re related, though.

Green vs Sustainable Wood Floors

Sustainability is based largely on how wood is sourced. Wood is considered sustainable when it is sourced in such a way that the forest can recover from the damage inflicted by the tree being felled. The process can be sustained indefinitely. That is a very important element of choosing responsible hardwood.

A “green” hardwood floor is a broader definition. Green is a vague term that refers to efforts at sustainability, environmental friendliness, and waste management. For example, cutting down old growth hardwood trees is not sustainable; they cannot be replaced in a reasonable amount of time. However, some antique floors are old growth. Therefore, repurposing that wood for use as a new hardwood floor would be green. No new wood is cut down to make the floor.

Alternately, green also refers to the entirety of the floor. For example, a floor that is sustainable sourced could be considered green, but more steps can be taken. Insulating the floor will reduce the need for fossil fuels to be burned to produce climate control. So, that floor would be “more green” than a floor that’s not insulated. Furthermore, floors can be finished with chemicals that have no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Those non toxic chemicals are easier to dispose of and do not hurt the environment.

The Bottom Line

The trend towards green hardwood floors and sustainability are definitely linked and both very worthwhile, but they are not the same thing. If you’re buying a new hardwood floor, you should look for a sustainably-sourced product. You should also look for ways to make your hardwood floor more green.

You can make a floor more green by insulating it to reduce HVAC use. You can also make a floor more green by using non toxic chemicals to stain and seal it. Furthermore, you can repair your hardwood floor instead of replacing it when it is damaged. Repairing the floor will consume less wood and less energy compared to buying a new floor. Reducing resource use is integral to a green hardwood floor.