Protect the planet—and your floor—with these sustainable rugs.
Looking to reduce your environmental footprint? You might want to take a gander at what’s under your feet. From the unsustainable materials used to make them to their pollutive production process, which can include the use of toxic chemicals and dyes—rugs may feel good under your feet, but they’re anything but nice on the planet. We’ve got tips on how to spot eco-friendly floor coverings, plus the best brands to shop for sustainable rugs.
How to spot a sustainable rug
Rugs are equal parts stylish and functional. They can add personality to a room, protect the floor from unwanted scuffs, and help keep your feet warm during the colder months. But they do have their downsides.
The vast majority of rugs are made with non-biodegradable, plastic-based materials, such as nylon, acrylic, and polyester. This can be problematic because when a rug is worn and rugged, they’re often discarded, piling up in landfills where they can leach toxic substances into the earth.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the production of carpets and rugs generated about 3.4 million tons of waste in 2018.
This doesn’t mean that you have to forego comfy and decorative floor coverings altogether. Brands are increasingly making sustainable and recyclable rugs out of natural, earth-friendly materials like organic cotton, sisal, a fiber that comes from a type of agave plant, and jute, which is derived from the bark of white jute plants.
Brands are also making rugs out of recycled materials like plastic. (These can still present a problem if they’re not recycled because PET-based rugs can still pollute landfills, shedding microplastics into the surrounding environment.)
It’s good to note that even if it’s made with sustainable materials, a rug is not actually sustainable unless it is produced in a manner that also minimizes its environmental impact. This includes being free of chemical treatments and toxic dyes.
One of the more common rug materials is wool. And while wool is a natural material—it comes from the thick, oily fur of sheep—its environmental footprint isn’t exactly small. That’s because sheep, like other livestock, are leading contributors to climate change, producing about 15 percent of all CO2 and methane emissions that cause global warming. Livestock are resource intensive, and according to Our World in Data, 75 percent of deforestation is driven by agriculture.
The resale market helps keep new items from being produced—antique furniture and vintage rugs are no exception. Traditionally, most antique rugs are wool-based, and if you’ve cut wool, or other animal products, out of your life elsewhere, wool rugs may not be a suitable match for your ethics. There are some organizations that advocate against buying any secondhand animal products as that keeps their market value high and increases the demand for new items made from wool and other animal materials.
The best sustainable rugs to shop
Don’t sweep the environmental impact of floor coverings under the rug. Sink your feet into these sustainable rugs.
1. The Citizenry
Maker of thoughtfully designed and handcrafted home decor, The Citizenry has rugs for every room. The brand prioritizes sustainability—using all-natural and organic materials—and social responsibility, paying two times the fair trade wage requirement to artisans around the world.
2. West Elm
This home furnishings giant has been a pioneer on the sustainability front, using recycling and upcycled materials and FSC-certified wood from well-managed forests.The brand makes shopping for rugs easy with search options that help sort rugs based on their size, color, shape, style, material, and features.
For sustainable materials, choose those made from recycled materials, cotton, jute, hemp, and tweed. The handwoven Jute Boucle Rug or the Round Jute Rug are classic options that bring an earthy feel to any room.
3. Lorena Canals
This woman-owned company carries indoor and outdoor, easy-to-clean rugs in every shape, style, and color of your fancy—from multi-colored, Moroccan-inspired rugs to ocean-themed rugs for the kids and everything in between.
The brand uses 100 percent natural cotton (as well as wool) and non-toxic dyes to make its floor coverings. They even have a collection made from upcycled textile fibers, called RugCycled.
Featuring sustainable rugs ethically woven from artisans around the world, this brand is the self-proclaimed “right way to rug.” The company’s rugs are shed, stain, and water resistant. They’re also made from eco-friendly materials like recycled plastic water bottles, banana silk, and cotton. (The company also uses wool in various designs.)
5. Cold Picnic
For bold colors and abstract prints, shop Cold Picnic.
The brand uses wool in many of its pieces, however, it does have several vegan-friendly options made from the likes of banana silk and cotton—including the Battenberg hand tufted rug and the Battenberg runner.