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checkPurchase and Maintain Sustainable Carpet

All PIM content was independently developed and reviewed to be vendor-, product-, and service provider-neutral.


Purchasing environmentally preferable (EP) carpet helps mitigate health and environmental concerns associated with carpet. These include air quality, chemical emissions from manufacturing and disposal operations, and solid waste impacts.

  • Project Talking Points

    • EP carpets meet the same industry performance standards as their non-EP counterparts while carrying the same manufacturer warranties for high traffic wear, fire rating, stain resistance, and color fade given similar appropriate uses.
    • A variety of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) can be emitted from carpet materials. Good ventilation can assist in reducing VOC’s from new carpet to lower levels within 48-72 hours after installation.
    • Over four billion pounds of carpet enter the solid waste stream in the U.S. every year, accounting for more than one percent by weight and about two percent by volume of all municipal solid waste (MSW).
    • The bulky nature of carpet creates collection and handling problems for solid waste operations and the variety of materials present in carpet makes it difficult to recycle; however, new efforts are underway to increase recycling opportunities.
    • Environmental impacts can occur throughout the life cycle of carpet, from the initial acquisition of raw materials to the final disposal of any product remnants.
    • Impacts vary with the types of materials used, the pattern of carpet use and replacement, and the options available for reuse, recycling, or disposal.
    • It is important to investigate new and updated life cycle analysis tools that can assist purchasers in making decisions about environmentally preferable products. See the tools section below for guidance.
  • Triple Bottom Line Benefits

    Cost savings – Some green carpeting is made mostly of natural fibers and can cost more initially than non-eco-friendly carpets. Other green carpeting is competitively priced. Savings can be found in the life cycle of the carpet. Research shows that implementing a green carpet care program can double the life of the carpet and eliminate 95 to 99 percent of contaminants contained in carpet, thereby keeping the facility environmentally clean and healthy.

    Environmental benefits – Eco-friendly carpeting reduces chemical emissions into the air and waste streams and conserves energy and water usage in manufacturing and processing. A green carpet is usually made from recycled materials such as nylon, wool, or plastic soda bottles. Some new green carpets are even made from recycled carpets. These carpets then become a renewable material instead of being added to the landfills. Carpet pads that are made from recycled nylon carpets are installed using tacks and not glue. This minimizes the adhesive VOCs in the air during carpet installation.

    Health and safety benefits (satisfaction and quality) – Carpet VOCs are known to cause nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and even damage to the central nervous system. They are also known to cause lymphoma, which is a cancer of the lymphatic system responsible for carrying the white blood cells throughout the body. They can cause neurological damage as well as birth defects. Purchasing environmentally preferable carpeting eliminates or greatly reduces the release of toxins and allergens into the air, which directly impacts the safety and satisfaction of hospital patients and staff.

  • Purchasing Considerations


    • The Carpet and Rug Institute has a Commercial ANSI Sustainability Standard that identifies carpet with sustainable attributes.
    • Sample Environmental Specifications for Carpet. Provided by Practice Greenhealth, is a detailed specifications document for sourcing carpet.
    • Require PVC- and phthalate-free, low off-gassing carpet made of recycled content.
    • Specify preference for modular systems that allow for replacement of specific areas as needed.

    Purchasing Issues to Consider:
    Environmentally preferable carpet choices each have their own merits, and choosing one depends on the specific need, location, and use for the carpet. Some questions to consider in determining the best choice for your situation include:

    • What are the durability requirements?
      In general, more durable products reduce environmental impacts because of the less frequent need for replacement. It is important to anticipate the expected use pattern and replacement schedule in order to make the best environmental purchase. For example, a highly durable carpet may not be the best choice for a temporary space with light use or where near-term replacement is expected because of a change in tenants, building renovations, or other factors.
    • What are the proper installation and maintenance procedures?
      Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installation. Industry-recommended standards for carpet installation (CRI 104 for commercial carpet and CRI 105 for residential carpet) are available from the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) website. Choose low-emitting adhesives such as those that meet the criteria developed by CRI's Green Label program or by Green Seal. Make sure that you select a carpet suitable for the routine cleaning and maintenance procedures in the area where it will be used. Be sure to follow good cleaning practices as recommended by the manufacturer or other reliable sources. CRI's Green Label vacuum cleaner testing program includes a list of vacuum cleaners meeting the Green Label standards for soil removal, dust containment, and carpet appearance retention. This list is available on CRI's Web site.
    • Tiles or broadloom?
      Tiles (modular carpet) use more material initially because of the need for a thicker backing. However, depending on the use pattern, tiles can save materials in the long run because worn or soiled tiles can be replaced individually rather than replacing the entire carpet. Because tiles are available in much smaller sizes than broadloom carpet, tiles are ideal for installation over access flooring and can reduce the material wasted due to trimming in some installations, e.g. in spaces with unusual dimensions.
    • Are reuse options available?
      At least one manufacturer offers refurbished products made from used carpet that look and perform like new carpet. This reuse option creates a product that has 100 percent postconsumer content.
    • What is the recycled content of the carpet face fiber, backing and cushion?
      Although recycled content is not the only factor to consider when buying carpet, doing so ensures that a demand exists in the marketplace for these products. In response to that demand, manufacturers must seek a continuous supply of recovered materials (e.g., recycled carpet) in order to manufacture the products. This cycle creates a demand for recycled carpet and materials, which reduces landfill space as well as natural resource, energy and environmental impacts associated with extracting, transporting, and manufacturing virgin, petrochemical-based raw materials.
    • Although processes exist for manufacturing both nylon 6 and nylon 6,6 from recovered materials, the supply of postconsumer recovered nylon suitable for use in carpet face fiber has been relatively limited due to technical and economic hurdles. Materials used in carpet backing and cushion can come from both postindustrial and postconsumer sources. Be sure to obtain specific information on the recycled content of carpet products, including a break-out of the overall postindustrial and postconsumer content. Also establish the recycled content percentages of each carpet component (i.e., face fiber and backings). The Carpet and Rug Institute recommends that recycled content be stated as a percentage based on total product weight. Federal purchasers and others using appropriated federal funds should consult the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines (CPG) for Carpet Cushions or the Comprehensive Procurement Guidelines for Carpet regarding recovered materials requirements for carpet.
    • Ask manufacturers for certification on environmental claims.
      Certain independent organizations provide testing and auditing services related to environmental standards and other environmental claims, such as recycled content and emissions data. In the absence of independent certification, ask for formal statements signed by senior company officials. Guidance on the use and interpretation of environmental marketing claims is available from the Federal Trade Commission in their document, Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims.
    • Is there a mechanism for reusing or recycling some or all of the carpet components?
      The Carpet America Recovery Effort can provide information and advice on recycling and other end-of-life options. Ensure that recycling operations are currently established and operational and not based on future expectation. Specify your recovery-recycling requirements in the purchase contract - this ensures that end-of-life issues are addressed and incorporates lifetime cost into the purchase price. Waiting to address end-of-life issues until the need arises can result in more limited options and higher costs.
    • What are the chemical emissions and other impacts from the manufacture of carpet?
      The carpet industry as a whole has made substantial progress in recent years in reducing chemical emissions, energy usage, and water usage associated with manufacturing processes. Additionally, some carpet manufacturers are pursuing certification under ISO 14000-series environmental management standards . Ask manufacturers to provide information on their specific efforts and accomplishments in this area. Industry-wide information in this area is available from the Annual Sustainability Report issued by the Carpet and Rug Institute.
    • What are the emissions from the carpet itself or from other materials used during its installation, e.g. adhesives? Do any of these emissions present indoor air quality concerns?
      Find out if the product has met the Carpet and Rug Institute's (CRI) Green Label/Green Label Plus (GLP) requirements. The Green Label program specifies emission limits for certain chemicals from carpet, cushion, and adhesive. These emission limits and lists of manufacturers who have met the standard are available at the linked site above. Ask manufacturers or others knowledgeable about emissions testing if any other relevant data or analyses are available.
  • How-To

    1. Determine your carpeting preferences on specific need, location, and use for the carpet. The “purchasing considerations” field above goes into more detail, but briefly here, start by considering the following:
      • Durability requirements
      • Installation and maintenance procedures
      • Tile (modular) or broadloom
      • Mechanism for reusing or recycling some or all of the carpet
      • Recycled content of the carpet face fiber, backing, and cushion
      • Confirmation of certification on environmental claims
      • Chemical emissions and other impacts from the manufacture of carpet
      • Emissions from the carpet itself or from other materials used during its installation, such as adhesives. Do they present indoor air quality concerns?
      • The EPA guide to purchasing sustainably produced carpet is found here.
    2. Look for carpet with the key environmental attributes, for example:
      • Low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
      • No toxic dyes
      • Recyclable
      • Recycled-content
      • Reduced energy use (from manufacturing)
      • Reduced or improved air emissions (from manufacturing)
    3. Procure carpet at the highest level of environmental purchasing standard, ANSI/NSF 140 at the Platinum level. NSF-140 evaluates carpets based on five attributes; Public Health and Environment, Energy and Efficiency, Bio-based and Recycle Content, Manufacturing, Reclamation, and End-of-Life.
    4. Work with your carpet manufacturer to understand the installation specifications including using low-emitting adhesives.  GreenSeal has a guide on Adhesives for Commercial Use.  Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus certification for low-emitting carpet and adhesives.
    5. Ensure adequate time to ventilate following installation.
    6. Maintenance: proper maintenance is critical to extending the life of the carpeting.
      1. Ensure carpet care equipment is certified by the Carpet and Rug Institute.
      2. Vacuum cleaners certified by the Carpet & Rug Institute Seal of Approval/Green Label Program that are capable of capturing 99.97% of particulates 0.3 microns in size.
      3. Carpet extraction equipment used for restorative deep cleaning certified by the Carpet & Rug Institute’s “Seal of Approval” Testing Program for Certified Deep Cleaning Extractors. Carpet extraction equipment shall be capable of removing sufficient moisture such that carpets can dry in less than 24 hours
      4. Consider Green Seal standards for products relevant to cleaning contracts for carpet cleaners(GS-37)
      5. EcoLogo standards include Carpet and Upholstery Cleaners (CCD 143)
      6. Work with your carpet maintenance product vendor to develop a cleaning program to extend the life of your carpet.
    7. End of Life Disposal/Recycling Considerations
      1. Some state and federal governments mandate carpet recycling.  These considerations should have already been determined during contract negotiations.
      2. Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE)
        CARE promotes the reuse and recycling of carpet. Includes a comprehensive listing of carpet recycling programs, information on market and product development for recycled carpet, information on other end-of-life options, and general guidance for purchasers on performance and environmental attributes.
      3. Check with your state to understand landfill bans for commercial carpet, and/or for recycling mandates.  For example.
      4. Minnesota Department of Environmental Assistance: National Agreement on Carpet Recycling
        Information on the Memorandum of Understanding for Carpet Stewardship between members of the carpet industry, representatives of government agencies, and non-governmental organizations.
      5. The State of Massachusetts required its vendors to offer a recycling program for all carpet that is replaced.
      6. The State of California provides some great resources on carpet and carpet pad recycling, reuse and end of life considerations to meet California’s Law on Carpet Stewardship (AB 2398)
  • Tools

    The LCA life cycle analysis calculator.

    If you have an ROI tool, calculator, or similar resources to share, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.

  • Case Studies

    Health Building Network Green Healthcare Construction case study for Beth Israel Medical Center, New York.

    The Sustainability Roadmap welcomes case studies on sustainable carpeting.  if you have a case study to share, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.

  • Regulations, Codes and Standards, Policies

    • The Sustainable Carpet Assessment (NSF-140) is the leading sustainability standard for carpet that uses reputable auditors to certify products, such as Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) and National Science Foundation (NSF), International. NSF 140 ANSI Standard for environmentally preferable carpet. The standard itself must be purchased from NSF but can be referenced in RFPs without purchasing.
    • There is no federal or state mandate for non-government agencies or organizations related to carpets. A number of states and EPA Regions have incorporated contract language that takes health and environmental considerations into account when purchasing carpet. North Carolina's specification addresses a broad range of performance and environmental attributes. Massachusetts state agencies specify minimum levels of recycled content for carpet purchases; both Massachusetts and Minnesota allow only low-VOC adhesives; and the State of Washington specifies the maximum emissions allowed in the first 30 days following installation. EPA Region 10 purchases only low-VOC and formaldehyde-free adhesives and requires that any carpet unable to be reused must be recycled with the INVISTA Reclamation Program or its equivalent. 
    • Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE).  CARE promotes the reuse and recycling of carpet. Includes a comprehensive listing of carpet recycling programs by state
  • Cross References: LEED

    LEED 2009 for Healthcare: New Construction and Major Renovations:

    • Indoor Environmental Quality, Credit 4, Low-emitting materials, 1-4 Points.
    • Materials and Resources, Credit 3, Sustainably Sourced Materials and Products, 1-4 Points.

    LEED for New Construction v2.2:

    • Indoor Environmental Quality, Credit 4.3, Low-Emitting Materials, Carpet Systems, 1 Point.
  • Cross References: GGHC


  • Education Resources

    If you have any information or resources to contribute, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.

  • More Resources

    • The Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) provides market-driven solutions to keep carpet out of landfills, and to help in the recycling of post-consumer carpet. For questions regarding carpet recycling, contact CARE.
    • The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) is the national nonprofit trade association representing more than 95% of all carpet made in the U.S. The CRI has instituted indoor air quality testing programs for new carpet, floor covering adhesives, and carpet cushion. CRI’s “Green Label” programs recognize manufacturers whose products improve indoor air quality. 
    • EPP Guide for greening your purchase of carpet.
    • Practice Greenhealth’s resources on green carpet and flooring.
    • An article on eco-friendly flooring from the Green American.
  • PIM Descriptors

    Supply Chain

    Level: Beginner

    Category List:

    • Building and Maintenance
    • Carpet-Flooring
    • Products

    PIM Attributes:

    • Basic Device Upgrades

    Improvement Type:

    • Operations


    • Engineering/Facilities Management
    • Environmental Services
    • Purchasing/Materials Management/Supply Chain
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