When people discuss environmentally friendly or sustainable flooring they normally have in mind a flooring that is made from a renewable resource. A renewable resource is a natural material that grows quickly enough to keep up with our consumer demands. Thus although trees do not renew themselves – the process is very slow. This is the reason why an acre and a half of rain forest is lost every minute somewhere in the world. If trees grew quicker then deforestation would be less of an issue.
One of the alternatives to making sustainable flooring from a renewable resource is to make it from an unwanted or discarded material. This is what reclaimed hardwood flooring is. It is hardwood recovered from building waste, home renovation, park waste, abandoned mine shafts, old barns and outhouses, fencing and hundreds of other sources. The recovered hardwood is kiln dried and then cut in a mill into flooring planks.
The quality of the resulting floor depends on the hardwood recovered. Sometimes it is full of kerfs and holes sometimes it is fairly unblemished. From an environmentally friendly point of view it is a great example of upcycling. That is taking something of less value and recycling it into something of higher value.
The logical limitation of this process is supply. While local supplies of unwanted hardwood are to be found this is a green type of flooring. If you have to buy your reclaimed hardwood flooring from a location many miles from your home the carbon cost of transportation lessens the green impact. And the final caveat is that it is possible that we will use up all the unwanted wood. Reclaimed hardwood is limited in its quantity whereas renewable materials such as bamboo, cork and coconut are not.
However, for the time being man’s wastefulness (or his industry) has provided us with plenty of oak, locust, walnut, ash, chestnut etc. from which to make flooring.