Eco-Friendly Flooring and 9 Other Materials that Are Biodegradable
What does “biodegradable” mean to you? As a Rubber Flooring Expert and lover of all things environmentally friendly, I think of “biodegradable” and eco-friendly flooring as being synonymous.
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a biodegradable material is a substance that is “capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.” In other words, it is a natural substance, like the natural rubber used in green floor products, which can return to nature over a length of time. The use of biodegradable products is the basis of the eco-friendly movement: we leave a smaller ecological footprint when we use biodegradable products in our household cleaning supplies, building materials, and other areas of our daily lives.
What does this mean for you? Here are a few eco-friendly products that you might be surprised to learn are biodegradable:
- Natural Rubber: Natural rubber is a sustainable and biodegradable material used in various products, including eco-friendly flooring and natural rubber mats. Rubber gloves and rubber bands, of course, contain natural rubber too. Natural rubber is derived from the sap of rubber trees so it is a durable natural resource that provides premium elasticity and long-lasting protection. Best of all, it won’t leave harmful chemicals or effects in nature after use!
- Lumber and Wood: It’s almost impossible to imagine what the world would be like without wood — it’s everywhere! Wood is used in houses, buildings, construction projects, furniture, and many other important household items. While I consider a hardwood floor to be far inferior to recycled rubber flooring or natural rubber matting, wood is a biodegradable material derived from trees. We must preserve it just as much as we use it!
- Cotton: It may surprise you to learn that cotton serves as the foundation for almost all clothing we wear today. Without this fluffy substance, a majority of us would probably be wandering around naked! Just like wood, cotton is a biodegradable material that leaves no harmful synthetic fibers behind. But don’t worry — you won’t be caught in the nude any time soon. Your clothing will go out of style long before it biodegrades and falls off your body.
- Paper: If you decide to print this article, you’ll definitely be using paper. While our high-tech world has pushed us toward a paperless way of life, paper is still widely used today in schools and businesses. Paper is one the main tools we still use for communicating. It is also highly biodegradable; if exposed to the elements, a piece of notebook paper will decompose within 2-5 months.
- Wool: Although similar to cotton, wool is gathered by shearing the fur from sheep, goats, and camels. This biodegradable material is used in many types of clothing, especially cold weather sweaters, hats, and scarves. Unlike the natural rubber used in green floor mats, wool can’t be used to make eco-friendly flooring products — but it does make really nice mittens!
- Leather: Shoes, belts, wallets, and car upholstery are a few of leather’s most familiar applications. Derived from animal rawhide and skin, leather is extremely durable, flexible, and highly valuable. While leather can take up to 40 years to decompose, this material is nevertheless a biodegradable resource that appears in various facets of our everyday lives.
- Natural Metals: Some of our most utilitarian materials are the natural metals we studied in our high school chemistry classes. The Periodic Table of Elements lists an impressive range of natural metals that are integral to many parts of modern civilization. Stubborn metals, like tin and aluminum, may take anywhere from 50-100 years to biodegrade, but they occur naturally in nature and are far less likely to harm the environment than synthetic materials.
- Manure & Sewage: It may be gross, but you probably won’t be surprised if I tell you that the waste in our sewers is as biodegradable as natural rubber matting. Manure, for example, is used on farms and in suburban sprawls to enrich planting soil, allowing plants to grow and thrive to their full potential. It seems unnecessary at first, but the biodegradability of sewage is actually pretty helpful.
- Food: I’m not talking about burgers from your local fast food joint. When I say that food is biodegradable, I mean the leafy greens, the fruits and veggies you keep in your fridge. Taking anywhere from a few days to a month, organic foods will decompose more quickly than anything else on this list. Their biodegradable nature also makes them healthy! Eat your fast food burgers if you must, but I support natural resources.
There you have it: 10 everyday materials that are biodegradable and therefore less harmful to the environment. Whether you use this newfound knowledge to invest in some eco-friendly flooring or make the switch to organic vegetables, remember that shrinking your carbon footprint is a conscious decision so be conscious of these resources! “Going green” little by little is an easy way to help the environment without giving up the familiar things in life.