The first lesson I have experienced as a “green” entrepreneur (www.seacoastgreenovations.com )is that patience, efficiency and finances are often in contradiction, and that the absence of patience can lead to choices that are less than the most sustainable. If I encounter this challenge running a business I can only assume that it will repeat itself with customers. Having at last found a place to open my business, months after my planned opening, I set out to furnish the space as quickly as I could. The very first challenge I ran into was a flooring issue. After months of research I had decided which manufacturer I would use as my marquee flooring line. Their efforts to move more of their harvesting operations to the continental U.S. had a great impact on this decision. Many green flooring companies only produce Bamboo flooring, or flooring that is derived from exotic hardwoods, FSC certified or otherwise. Though Bamboo is rapidly renewable, and highly durable when properly harvested, it still must be shipped halfway around the world to the U.S. A sustainably forested, healthily manufactured, durable flooring product from your region of the world is usually, though not always, a greener choice than an exotic import. Unfortunately, the confluence of numerous factors often alters our best choices.
A few days after leasing my space I called my contact at this well know company. He was no longer employed there. To make matters worse, he hadn’t yet registered me as a dealer because he wanted to wait until I had signed a lease, and thus legitimized myself as a business. Calls to other companies confirmed rumors* of financial shakiness with my chosen manufacturer. The last thing I wanted to do was install a floor made by a soon to be defunct company. These rumors naturally surprised me since the company has a stellar reputation for its service and product. Also, I had a builder ready to work for me on the spot, a blessing at any time. In fact, the time window of when he could work for me was brief. I need my flooring fast and I needed time to acclimate it for three days once it arrived at the store. The time required to establish a relationship with a different marquee flooring company was more than I had available
In the end I installed a strand woven, Bamboo floating floor from Foundations Flooring (www.ibpna.com ). Their bamboo is properly harvested (between 5 ½ years and 7 years), urea formaldehyde free, and is manufactured with low VOC water based binders. As well, the click loc engineering is as sturdy and user friendly as any I have seen, if not better. Removing the flooring for reuse elsewhere will be easy – a factor often overlooked when measuring the “greenness” of a product. My only lament is that the flooring is not FSC certified. At this point, few bamboo lines are. Until recently, FSC did not certify bamboo products because bamboo is in fact not a wood, it is a grass. But the boom in bamboo flooring and the equivocation of bamboo with hardwood in the flooring industry has made such certification valuable.
I would have preferred a wood floor made of US harvested hardwoods over my bamboo floor. Had I been more prepared I would have been able to set that up without hurting the time frame for my business opening. Eco Timber (www.ecotimber.com ) manufactures some of the most beautiful hardwood floors available today and the new Sideways line from Plyboo (www.plyboo.com ) is as unique and stylish as anything I have seen in the industry yet. Both companies manufacture FSC certified bamboo as well as FSC certified American hardwood lines. Their products are stylish, durable and the cleanest out there when factoring the pigments and glues used to produce the material, as well as locale. In fact, their prefinished lines cannot be surpassed in earth friendliness as evidenced by the LEED points their flooring lines can earn.
Still, I am happy with my bamboo flooring from Foundations Flooring. It looks great, I know it can be removed easily (after removing some of it to fix a mistake) and it will undoubtedly hold up to the traffic I hope comes into my store. Ultimately, what I had to deal with here was a choice and the effort to be green nearly always involves a well informed, carefully considered choice. Is a flooring line harvested and manufactured in the US (when installed in the US) always a greener option than bamboo that is shipped halfway across the world from China? No! Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not. Often, there are many factors to consider. There are the ubiquitous “green” considerations, and there are also the factors unique to each project. I wanted a floating floor which involves less waste and less resource use. As well, I had to float it over a concrete subfloor with an underlayment. Concrete, however, is porous and often passes moisture into the surfaces above it. Hardwood is less dimensionally stable and more susceptible to the problems caused by moisture than bamboo. Perhaps choosing a hardwood would have been the least green choice of all. After all, if a material is not durable, it’s not green. That is a certainty. Only patience can answer that question. Patience is one of the most sustainable virtues out there.
* I do not wish to reveal the name of the manufacturer “having financial troubles” at this time, because as we know, rumors are often rumors and little else. Until I do know the truth, the word is mum with me.