Anybody who has seen The Big Lebowski knows that a rug can really tie the room together. Rugs are also great for soundproofing, can reduce your heating bills, and generally make a space feel cozier and more comfortable, especially for families with children. If your rug is off-gassing toxic chemicals, however, or is responsible for environmental pollution during its manufacture, that warm and cozy feeling might prove elusive.
Thankfully, eco-friendly rugs are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, designs, and materials, so you can accent any space whatever your style.
If you’re in the market for a new rug, consider the following questions:
- What materials are used in making the rug?
- Are these materials recycled and/or recyclable, organic, natural, and fairly sourced?
- Are the materials or the final product treated with toxic chemicals, such as azo dyes?
- Does the manufacturing of the rug harm humans, other animals, and/or the environment?
Before you check out the curated eco-friendly rugs in our ecoHome Directory, here’s a quick overview of what to look out for, such as green certifications, and what to avoid (such as VOCs, azo dyes, and greenwashing) when buying a new rug.
Our top picks for eco-friendly Rugs
|Product||Highlights||Leaf Score||Product Link|
Safavieh Cape Cod Collection Area Rugs – Jute Only!Read the Review
|View on Amazon|
Safavieh Natural Fiber Collection NF447A Hand Woven Natural Jute Area RugRead the Review
|View on Amazon|
Coyuchi Ano Nuevo Organic RugRead the Review
Organic Weave Cotton RugsRead the Review
Hook and Loom Eco Cotton RugsRead the Review
|View on Amazon|
Things to consider in Rugs
Rugs – What to Watch out for
It’s exciting to unravel a new rug, but if this comes with a ‘new carpet smell’, chances are that the air in your house is set to get a little less healthy. That’s because this smell is caused by the off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which are classed as carcinogens. VOCs are emitted as a breathable gas from rugs, carpets, and other common household furnishings and products. So much so that concentrations of VOCs inside a house can be ten-fold higher than outdoors (R).
VOCs can cause headaches, nausea and dizziness, nasal irritation, allergic reactions, neurological problems, liver and kidney damage, cancer, and possible even fertility problems and miscarriage. As if that wasn’t bad enough, some VOC’s are greenhouse gases, meaning that they contribute to climate change (which has its own negative effects on health, such as through increasingly intense storms and desertification).
VOCs are commonly found in rugs because these textiles are treated with stain and water repellents, antimicrobial treatments (in bath rugs, for instance), and anti-static treatments, as well as adhesives, artificial dyes, and flame retardants. In general, if a rug is marketed as stain resistant, it has probably been treated with toxic chemicals or is made with synthetic, closed fiber materials that cause environmental pollution and health problems of their own.
If you have kids or non-human animals in the house, a stain resistant rug might sound especially appealing, given the potential for messes. However, kids, dogs, and cats are more likely than the average adult to spend time in close contact with a rug, meaning they’re at increased risk of exposure to any toxic chemicals. Once you start looking at the materials and methods used to manufacture rugs for the nursery or playroom, it’s quite shocking to think of the chemicals to which most infants are exposed early in life when developing brains and bodies are especially vulnerable to their effects.
Stain resistant rugs have typically been treated with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which are associated with cancer, reproductive problems, birth and developmental defects, and even problems with immunosuppression (R).
Rugs may also be treated with flame retardant chemicals that are toxic. Rugs made with nylon and polypropylene are almost always treated with fire retardants because they are essentially flammable petroleum products. Conversely, wool is naturally flame retardant, meaning that it does not need to be treated with these harsh chemicals. Wool is also quite resistant to staining, so much so that many companies feel compelled to use harsh chemicals on wool to make it absorb dyes, turning a natural material into a toxic environmental hazard. Companies such as Earth Weave have invested in creating innovative natural ways to color wool without relying on problematic chemicals, which is why their products make it into the ecoHome directory.
Even if the top of your rug is ‘natural’, the backing or padding is likely to be made of some form of plastic or synthetic latex (a suspected carcinogen that can contain endocrine-disrupting phthalates) or vinyl, urethane, 4-phenylcylclohexene, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), so don’t be fooled by clever marketing. Use a rug pad produced with natural latex, jute, or wool, or opt for a double-sided rug or one that doesn’t need a pad.
Some of the troublesome chemicals found in rugs or involved in their production include:
Rugs made with natural fibers may still contain some of these chemicals. Conventionally grown cotton, for instance, is liable to be riddled with pesticides and other chemicals.
Other Rug Considerations
Synthetic and conventional rugs can have serious adverse effects not just on our health but also on the planet. The energy footprint, water use, and environmental pollution attributable to conventional synthetic or cotton rugs is staggering. What’s more, many of these items simply end up in landfill when styles change, where they off-gas, leach chemicals, and can take decades or longer to degrade.
Natural fibers grown organically and/or sustainably, that haven’t been treated with toxic chemicals, are better for people and the planet. Rugs are also a good option over carpet, given that fewer resources go into making them. And, once you’re ready to let a natural fiber rug go, it’s much easier to repurpose or recycle, and if it does end up in landfill it will break down much faster and without leaching toxins into the air, water, or soil.
One other advantage of rugs over carpets is that they are typically easier to clean. If you or a family member has allergies, a natural fiber rug that can be machine washed or simply taken outside and beaten regularly to remove dust and dander can help keep indoor allergens to a minimum. Organic cotton rugs used alongside a natural rubber rug pad are a great option if dust, mold, and/or dander allergies are a consideration. Wood and bamboo mats are also a good option as these don’t collect fine particles and are easy to wipe clean. They are also less likely to develop mold and mildew, making them a good choice for the kitchen and bathroom. Washable cotton rugs are another good option here.
When choosing a rug, it’s also important to bear in mind the level of foot traffic to which it will be subjected. High-traffic areas such as hallways and stairs require more robust rug materials than low traffic areas such as bedrooms or guestrooms. This might mean choosing a higher quality rug with a higher pile weight for an entrance way, living room, and hallways, and opting for thinner, less expensive rugs elsewhere.
Top-Tip: Living with small children (human or otherwise), senior animals, or accident-prone adults, needn’t mean sacrificing style. Instead, choose a darker rug with a smaller, tighter pattern and eschew rugs with larger monochrome areas. Marks and spills won’t show up so easily on these rugs. Also, choose a machine-washable eco-friendly rug such as one made with organic or recycled cotton.
Rug size is also important. Typically, if you’re going for an area rug, you would subtract 3 feet from the length and breadth of the room. So, if your room is 12 feet by 10 feet, you would want to go for a rug measuring around 9 feet by 7 feet. Leaving some exposed floor at the edges of the room makes it look bigger. Designers also recommend that a rug is big enough for the front edges of furniture to rest on. And, if you’re going for a rug under a dining table, choose a rug with at least 24 inches of material from the edge of the table. That way, pulling out dining chairs won’t mean pulling them off the rug.
If you’re shopping for an eco-friendly runner, choose something that it around 4 inches narrower than your hallway or entranceway, and around 20 inches shorter, but make it is wide enough to comfortably walk along with both feet side by side.
Finally, when choosing a rug pad, make sure it is around an inch smaller all round than your rug. You can cut most rug pads to size with scissors. And, watch out for rug pads that contain toxic chemicals. A lot do, even ones that seems at first glance to be made entirely with latex. Check with the manufacturer if you’re not sure.
What’s the Alternative?
Natural and organic fibers are the go-to for responsible rugs. These are usually biodegradable, their production doesn’t involve huge amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, and natural fibers have unique qualities such as in-built flame retardant and antimicrobial constituents. Some good natural fiber rug options include:
- Wool (with caveats; see below)
- Cotton (organic).
Cotton and wool can be great options for furnishing an eco-friendly home. However, conventional cotton is grown using vast amounts of pesticides and water, while wool production can be an ethical and environmental nightmare. Choosing organically grown fibers is better all round, and it pays to ask questions about the provenance of any wool.
Pros and Cons of Recycled Rugs
Recycled materials are also an option for eco-friendly rugs but beware greenwashing. Discarded fishing nets and plastic bottles might not sound like the ideal components for soft, luxurious carpet, but these are increasingly being reclaimed and recycled to create eco-friendly floor coverings. Companies such as Econyl reclaim discarded fishing nets to provide companies with the raw materials for rugs. Other companies use post-consumer plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles to create rugs that are suitable for outdoor and indoor use. While it’s great that these synthetic materials are being recycled, instead of remaining in the oceans or landfill, they’re still synthetic and are likely treated with flame retardants, UV resistant chemicals, and other chemicals just like new synthetic products. As such, they’re best used outdoors in well ventilated spaces or avoided entirely.
Some companies have also taken to using recycled cotton and other fibers to make rugs. Again, beware greenwashing. ‘Recycled’ cotton may just be new cotton that is rejected by most manufacturers because of short fiber length. This cotton then goes through the same dyeing processes and chemical treatments as regular cotton. Instead, look for products made with genuine recycled cotton. This will usually contain some amount of other materials, such as polyester and will come in a variety of shades. Genuinely recycled cotton won’t fade or shrink as it has likely already been washed multiple times before being recycled. Hook and Loom are a great company to consider for recycled eco cotton rugs, while Under the Nile recycle the scraps from their own organic cotton clothing line for use in their Big and Small rugs.
Pros and Cons of Wool Rugs
Wool rugs used to be very popular until cheap, synthetic rugs stole the show. Thankfully, greater awareness of the perils of polyester means people are once again turning their attention to wool. Wool is a natural fire retardant, does not give off harmful emissions, and has a natural ability to inhibit the growth of bacteria and dust mites. It also tends to be hardwearing, keeping its shape even in high traffic areas. So, wool is the ideal eco-friendly rug material, right? Not so fast. The reality is that wool production can take a significant environmental toll, be mired in problems such as animal exploitation and cruelty, and wool may still be treated with toxic chemicals, especially if it is dyed.
Many companies claim that wool is non-allergenic. Sadly, this isn’t true. Some people have an allergic reaction to lanolin, a fatty substance found on the skin, and the wool, of sheep. Buying a natural wool carpet would be a costly way to discover a lanolin allergy, so ask to take a sample home before you commit to buying. Wool that is ‘lanolin-free’ has likely been washed using harsh chemicals, which can also cause allergies, and as lanolin is a natural water repellant and is stain resistant, this kind of ‘clean’ wool will likely have been treated with toxic chemicals to reinstate those natural qualities. Wool is also fun food for moths and carpet beetle larvae, so many wool carpets sold as natural have probably been treated with insecticide.
As for the environmental and ethical issues, few companies pay attention to the provenance of the wool used in their rugs. This means that the wool may come from sheep leading pretty unhappy lives and whose existence also has a significant environmental impact. Certainly, there are plenty of individuals who love and care for the sheep in their care, but the vast majority of sheep used for their wool have been bred over decades to have extra skin folds, so as to produce more wool. Unfortunately, these skin folds mean sheep are prone to painful infections, meaning that farmers give sheep vast amounts of antibiotics and cut off large patches of skin in an unpleasant practice called mulesing.
Greater demand for wool also means an increase in land use for sheep farming and all the problems associated with animal agriculture: less land for growing food crops for humans, greater methane production, animal feces polluting water sources, and so on. Modern sheep farming is often nothing at all like the natural images companies selling ‘natural’ fiber products typically use that show a child holding a lamb in a beautiful meadow.
When wool rugs are made in a sustainable and eco-friendly fashion, however, they are an excellent option for the ecohome. Stylish, affordable, naturally resistant to fire, stains, and soiling, wool rugs also absorb sound, feel cozy, and are fairly easy to maintain.
Pros and Cons of Jute Rugs
Jute is a sustainable, durable, biodegradable, and flexible fiber derived from the jute plant that commonly grows in India and China. Jute rugs can be made with small or chunky braids, and the natural variations in the fiber’s colors add a depth and richness to décor.
Jute isn’t as durable as sisal, but is just as easy to care for, requiring just light vacuuming, brushing, sweeping, or beating (outside!). Jute rugs are typically reversible, meaning that they can be flipped for extra longevity. They’re great for high traffic areas and can stand up to rough and tumble play from kids, cats, and dogs. They can, however, be a fun chew toy for puppies, and are a little tricky to clean if soiled significantly. Some people also find that jute fibers are too knobbly and rough to comfortably stand, sit, or lie on for any length of time, while others consider this free foot massage a bonus of jute!
Pros and Cons of Sisal Rugs
Sisal is one of the most durable fibers used for rugmaking. This natural fiber comes from the leaves of the agave plant and sisal rugs are usually bound with canvas board to provide structure and style. Sisal has a neutral color, is naturally stain resistant, does not trap allergens and dust, and is static-free. It’s also a great sound-absorbed, making it a fantastic option if you have downstairs neighbors, heavy footed family members, or small hordes of children and other animals running around having fun.
Pros and Cons of Cotton Rugs
Cotton is soft, breathable, light, and can be machine washed, making it a great choice for family area rugs, underneath dining tables, and in children’s bedrooms. Cotton isn’t as durable as jute, sisal, or wool, however, and should be used with a natural rubber or other eco-friendly rug pad to avoid sliding.
Cotton rugs are very common, but almost all are made with conventionally grown cotton. If you’re keen on cotton, choose a rug made with organically grown cotton. Look for the GOTS lable or other credible certification for peace of mind that the cotton was not grown using pesticides or other toxic chemicals and has not been treated with harsh chemicals or azo dyes during processing.
Pros and Cons of Triexta AKA Sorona Rugs
In recent years, a newer synthetic fiber, known as triexta and sold under the brand name Sorona, has gained in popularity. This fiber is often touted as the environmentally-friendly version of nylon or polyester as it is made from corn glucose.
Triexta, or polytrimethylene terephthalate (PTT) to give it its chemical name, was invented by Dupont, the company that long denied the dangers of Teflon. Dupont claim that triexta is renewable and environmentally-friendly because 37% of its fiber content is made with corn glucose. While this does mean a reduction in chemical use, it does not totally avoid the problems of synthetic fibers, including off-gassing of VOCs and environmental pollution.
One other advantage to triexta, however, is that it is arguably more durable and resilient than conventional polyester and, potentially, nylon. This may mean that rugs and other goods made with triexta could last longer and reduce the amount of waste going into landfill as well as slow down textile production, thus reducing overall use of resources. Triexta is also naturally stain resistant and can be cleaned with water alone. This is because triexta is hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb moisture. It is also fade resistant and does not discolor in sunlight, but is a lot softer than polyester and nylon, making it a good option for outdoor rugs.
Godfrey Hirst are a smaller Australian company that offers an eco+ collection of carpets and rugs made using triexta, while Mohawk Industries are the biggest manufacturer using Sorona triexta from Dupont. Neither of these are genuinely eco-friendly, but they are likely your best options if you’re curious about triexta.
Green Rug Certifications
As mentioned above, many rug sellers are piggybacking on consumer enthusiasm for eco-friendly products by advertising goods as ‘natural’. Unfortunately, many such statements are simply greenwashing. Companies can self-declare their products to be ‘natural’ and ‘green’ because these are not regulated terms in the US, unlike ‘organic’. Some companies add second-party certification to their product labels, but these are also insubstantial, given that they are awarded by manufacturers, trade or industry organizations with a vested interest in promoting the product.
When looking for eco-friendly products, third-party certification is a must. Credible third-party certification means that a product is assessed by an independent body with no vested financial interest in the sale of any particular product, nor ties to the manufacturer or industry (aside from fees collected for impartial assessment).
One label to look out for when shopping for an eco-friendly rug is the GOTS certification.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
GOTS requires that at least 95 percent of the materials in a product are certified organic, and it prohibits outright the use of certain substances even for the other 5 percent, such as chemical flame retardants.
Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS)
GOLS ensures that a product made with latex contains at least 95 percent organic latex, with restrictions on the make-up of the other 5 percent. A certified organic cotton rug with natural-latex non-slip backing may have both the GOTS and GOLS labels. We haven’t, as yet, found any rugs that have GOLS certification however. Let us know if you see one!
Greenguard and Greenguard Gold
Greenguard is one of the most common green certifications and requires testing of a finished rug for specific emission limits of formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds. The related Greenguard Gold has more stringent emission limits for VOCs. Both were developed by UL Environment and Greenguard worked with ANSI to become an official standard-setting organization. Neither certification offers reassurance that a product is free from toxins, however, nor do they include a social or animal ethics component and the industry does not seem to favor these certifications currently, relying instead on GOTS, Fair Trade, Nest, and other certifications.
Green America certifies businesses that actively use their business as a tool for positive social change. To be certified with Green America a business must also:
- Operate a “values-driven” enterprise according to principles of social justice AND environmental sustainability;
- Demonstrate environmentally responsible practices in the way they source, manufacture, and market their products and run their operations and facilities;
- Be socially equitable and committed to extraordinary practices that benefit workers, customers, communities, and the environment; and
- Be accountable for their work by continually improving and tracking their progress and operating with transparency in every facet of their business.
Green America has been evaluating and certifying small businesses since 1982. There is also a Green America Gold certification that is reserved for companies who are industry leaders for responsible, sustainable business practices.
Child labor is rampant in the handmade rug and carpet industry. GoodWeave is the main organization that certifies child-labor-free rugs and provides education and opportunities to at-risk children. If your rug is hand-knotted, be sure that the company has GoodWeave certification or equivalent as hand-knotted rugs are predominantly made by home-based handworkers where child labor is rampant.
Green Label and Green Label Plus™
The Carpet and Rug Institute’s Green Label and Green Label Plus have been around since 1992 and the early 2000s respectively. The CRI is an industry body, making Green Label Plus a second-party certification. However, Green Label Plus is incorporated into the LEED standard for indoor carpet, lending it greater credibility, and CRI has begun working with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to increase transparency.
Green Label Plus certifies rugs with very low or no VOC emissions to help improve indoor air quality. Unfortunately, many rugs that are made with petroleum-based materials and emit harmful VOCs are still able to qualify for Green Label certification, which throws the value of the certification into question. In fact, not a single rug currently listed with Green Label Plus certification is made without synthetic materials. So, all in all, Green Label Plus is not a good standard by which to judge a rug’s eco-credentials.
UL Environment have also developed GREENGUARD Certification to help identify interior products and materials that have low chemical emissions. Greenguard also worked with ANSI to become an official standard-setting organization. Again, we rarely see rugs with this certification, so, if you spot one, let us know.
Cradle to Cradle Certification
Cradle to Cradle is both independent and more robust than Green Label Plus, but there are currently no rugs certified to this standard. If you do see this label on a rug, check the official c2c website for verification, then buy it and let us know!
Companies who use latex in their products may carry certification from the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) to certify that it is natural rubber rather than toxic synthetic rubber. Some companies also carry FSC certification for their packaging materials. A handful of companies carry Green People listing, which is not a very robust standard but does offer some assurance that a third-party has likely checked the claims being made by a company to ensure no ‘greenwashing’ is afoot.
Some companies are also now carrying Nest standard products. Nest is similar to Fair Trade certification, but while Fair Trade ensures that factory, farm and fishery workers are treated ethically, Nest sets standards for labor conditions for artisans worldwide who work out of their homes, which impacts female artisans in particular. Women form a majority of the 300 million or so ‘homeworkers’ estimated to be active globally. After agriculture, craft based work is the second largest employer of women in developing economies. Nest is a non-profit that supports these women and is an excellent certification to look for and to demand of companies selling homewares made by artisans.
As with many ecoHome products, smaller companies may not have the funds to cover the cost of certification. In such cases where independent certification is not available, you might want to ask for a formal statement signed by senior company officials (R).
If a company does not mention the source of their raw materials, their use of chemicals during manufacture, or other relevant considerations, ask. This might mean emailing, calling, or writing to the company with specific questions about certifications and processes. If the company makes products that are eco-friendly, they are very likely to respond with enthusiasm. And, if they don’t, the more of us who ask these questions, the more likely a company is to feel pressure to change their practices.
What to do with old rugs
The environmental impact of a rug doesn’t just rely on your choice of a new rug. Most old rugs are dumped in landfill, where they remain for decades, leaching toxins into the soil and water supply.
Instead of sending a rug to landfill, consider giving a faded rug a facelift. Stained and faded rugs can be dyed to give them a fresher look, while worn rugs may be able to be cut down to create a smaller rug for use by the kitchen sink or bathroom vanity, or as a hallway runner or entrance mat.
Old rugs are also great for controlling weeds in the garden, adding cushion, comfort, and insulation to a workshop or storage area, or can be cut up and used as floor protectors under heavy furniture or as padding when moving or packing up fragile items for shipping. You might also spruce up an old rug and turn it into a decorative wall hanging or throw it into the back of the car to protect seats from muddy pets and for use as an impromptu picnic blanket or beach blanket.
Companies to Consider for Responsible Rugs
Some of the best options for responsible rugs come courtesy of:
Wayfair also offer rugs with less robust or non-existent eco credentials but that are made with recycled and seemingly eco-friendly materials such as recycled cotton, jute, hemp, and other fibers. Be cautious when looking through these listings and ask questions if details are lacking for a specific item. We’ve listed a few of our favorites in the ecoHome directory.
Organic Weave are arguably the best of the best for eco-friendly rugs. Based in Montreal, Canada, the company was founded by Linda Alexanian after a trip to India in 1989 where she witnessed widespread child labor in the rug industry and committed to bringing change to the industry. Organic Weave produced what may have been the first GOTS certified organic rugs available and remain committed to partnering with women in rural India to provide dignified work and sustainable income while guaranteeing that no illegal child labor is involved.
Organic Weave offers a wide range of rugs handmade in India by skilled women artisans. Their rugs are GOTS certified, GoodWeave certified, and are vibrant, safe, sustainable, and attractive. This makes the company possibly the only one around making truly eco-friendly and sustainable rugs that also factor in a commitment to social fairness.
The company uses FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified natural rubber glue (or latex) in the manufacture of handtufted rugs. The latex is used to secure (or glue) the pile of the rug to the backing (organic cotton canvas). Rugs are typically custom made and non-refundable. Organic Weave offer a range of cotton rugs, wool rugs, and silk rugs, ranging in price from just under $300 to almost $13,000.
Coyuchi was founded more than 20 years ago in a small coastal Northern California town and have long produced a line of home textiles rooted in nature, including products made from 100% certified organic cotton. They produce their goods using a zero-waste water recycling method and are committed to sustainable practices.
Coyuchi requires that their supply chain partners are fully compliant with the strictest environmental and social regulations. This includes working with European manufacturers who follow the REACH chemical standards aimed at reducing chemical risk to human health and the environment. They also adhere to the Restricted Substances List (RSL) of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and try to source from as many Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified suppliers as possible.
They have Fair Trade certification and are a member of 1% for the Planet, an organization founded in 2002 to connect nonprofit environmental organizations to businesses and individuals who can provide direct funding to projects that help protect the planet. Not all standards apply to all products.
Coyuchi products also carry the MADE SAFE® seal, which means that a product is made with safe ingredients not known or suspected to harm human health, animals or ecosystems. Certified products have been thoroughly examined by researchers and scientists to ensure they’re made without known behavioral toxins, carcinogens, developmental toxins, endocrine disruptors, flame retardants, heavy metals, neurotoxins, high risk pesticides, reproductive toxins, toxic solvents, or harmful VOCs. Ingredients are further examined by a chemist for the potential for bioaccumulation, persistence, general ecosystem harm, and for aquatic and animal toxicity.
Coyuchi are also involved in the Fibershed program which “develops regional and regenerative fiber systems on behalf of independent working producers, by expanding opportunities to implement carbon farming, forming catalytic foundations to rebuild regional manufacturing, and through connecting end-users to farms and ranches through public education”.
Earth Weave are a big name in eco-friendly carpeting because they were the first carpet manufacturer to use only natural materials such as hemp and natural latex to produce 100 percent biodegradable products. Happily, Earth Weave also offer their Bio-Floor carpet range in a rug style. These rugs are made in the US and do not include any synthetics, including no synthetic yarn, backings or adhesives. Their Bio-Floor rugs are made with naturally pigmented undyed wool fibers, while their OrganoSoftColor™ range offers wool rugs dyed with safe ingredients. Earth Weave rugs are all natural, non-toxic, and do not off-gas harmful chemicals.
Safavieh was founded in 1914 as a family company committed to working with artisans to provide handmade rugs to consumers worldwide. This company has grown considerably in the last few decades and now works with top designers and celebrities to produce unique collections in addition to quality, sustainable, eco-friendly rugs handmade using natural materials such as jute, cotton, sisal, and recycled fabrics and fibers.
They make a conscious effort to select natural materials that are sustainable, such as legally harvested forest products, responsibly produced plantation products, and recycled content. They request that suppliers decrease their use of known toxic chemicals for treatments, binders and finishes, replacing compounds that compromise indoor air quality and are harmful to human health. They also ask vendors to use textiles with a lower environmental impact, such as organic cotton instead of conventionally-grown cotton. They also pay living wages (not just minimum wage) and are taking steps to reduce energy consumption, offset carbon emissions, and have replaced a portion of the energy they consume with certified renewable energy, either directly or indirectly. More information can be found at Safavieh’s listing on the Sustainable Furnishings Council website.
Safavieh are also a member of the ORIA (The Oriental Rug Importers Association), an organization that supports the needs of children and their families in major carpet weaving districts around the world.
Unfortunately, not all Safavieh products are made to the same eco-friendly standards, so be careful when browsing listings. Check the specifications and ask questions where necessary. The Safavieh jute, seagrass, and sisal rugs are generally good options that are sustainable, non-toxic, and eco-friendly.
Under The Nile
Under the Nile offer handmade rugs that are loomed using leftover scraps from their clothing production. These rugs are an excellent option for every room of the house as they are soft but durable. They are certified GOTS and are all ethically and sustainably made in a Certified Fair Trade facility in Egypt that adheres to the highest global textile and labor standards.
Under the Nile was founded by a woman looking for non-toxic, safe, and sustainable baby clothing options. The rugs are a continuation of that ethos, helping not only to reduce manufacturing waste but to provide an eco-friendly play mat option for nurseries and children’s rooms.
These rugs are made of 100% organic Egyptian cotton, are free of azo dyes, BPA, flame retardants, formaldehyde, fragrance, PVC, and lead, and are made with the same cotton certified to the Gold Egyptian Seal of authentic premium, combed Egyptian cotton. The company uses only low-impact, metal free dyes when dying yarn and they never use bleach in any processes. To provide color continuity across products, they instead use an oxygen-based whitening process. Under the Nile organic cotton play mats start at $46 for 2.5’ by 3.25’ and are produced in Europe in factories that empower women. The company also supports various social and charitable causes promoting child welfare, environmental responsibility, and gender equality.
If you’re looking for a colorful rug, Hook and Loom are a great place to start. This company is based in Massachusetts and make rugs in carefully selected workshops in India, free from child labor. The rugs are made from undyed wool and recovered textile fibers, including cotton and recycled plastic, without dyes or chemicals, and are shipped with minimal packaging to reduce environmental impact.
Rugs start at $24 for 2′ x 3′ and are handwoven on wooden looms. They are available in a variety of colors, patterns, pile heights, and sizes and are made without stain repellants, fire retardants, or other chemicals.
Unlike other companies who use ‘recycled’ cotton that is actually just new cotton rejected for poor quality, Hook and Loom amass discarded textiles and recover the fibers, separating these into spools of colored yarn. They then hand-weave new rugs without having to add dyes or chemicals. As such, the rugs do not fade or bleed when washed and are already soft and pre-shrunk. Because of the nature of recycled textiles, Hook and Loom rugs are listed as comprising 85% cotton, 12% polyester, and 3% other materials.
In 2014, West Elm became the first home retailer to join Fair Trade USA™. They offer a range of Fair Trade Certified™ products including rugs, bedding and furniture. They also aim to use GOTS certified cotton in all their bedding by 2020, demonstrating their further commitment to eco-friendly practices. We have included only a small number of their rugs in the ecoHome directory (so far) because most continue to lack legitimate eco-credentials. Those we have included are made with materials that are typically the most eco-friendly, including jute and wool.
VivaTerra offer contemporary and traditional eco-friendly home décor products made with sustainability and fair trade in mind. They work with artisans to create unique and earth-friendly goods and have been in business since 2004. Founded in California, the company is now based in Virginia and specializes in recycled glass accents, block-printed textiles, and reclaimed wood furnishings. They also provide some eco-friendly rugs, with items sourced from more than 20 countries worldwide.
VivaTerra claim to favor fair-trade partners and sustainable methods of production, but most products do not carry specific third-party certifications, making it difficult to ascertain how robust these eco-friendly claims really are. They have, however, partnered with TerraPass, an organization that supports businesses in taking responsibility for climate impacts and offsetting carbon footprints.