Eco decor Homes & Tech

How to Buy an Eco Friendly Carpet

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By Chere Di Boscio

Look around your home. Which object do you think is the most unhealthy thing in there? Unless you’re a smoker with a cigarette lit or have a phone mast on your roof, it’s very likely your carpet. In fact, carpeting is the number 1 cause of indoor air pollution, thanks to the materials used in the carpeting, padding and installation. Wall-to-wall is the worst, but even large rugs can contain these materials.

Carpet, its backing and padding and how it’s installed all emit “volatile organic compounds” or VOCs in the air. These  refer to the toxic  chemicals  that give off fumes from the  manufacturing process of the carpet, backing and/or padding. Carpeting can off-gas up to 5 years after the carpet is installed, causing  asthma, skin rashes,  eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, shortness of breath or cough and fatigue. But in addition to VOCs, carpeting can also act as a “sink” for chemical and biological pollutants including pesticides, dust mites, and fungi. This is even more the case if you don’t take your shoes off at home.

It’s always better to go for wood floors made of sustainable timber such as bamboo, pine or oak, but if you must have carpeting, try to reduce the surface size of the material; in other words, it’s better to go for a floor rug than wall-to-wall.  In addition, the floor covering should be an eco friendly carpet made of a natural fibre, such  as wool  (which is self-extinguishing if a fire breaks out), cotton, jute, sisal, bamboo, abaca fiber (banana family), seagrass, coir (the agave plant fiber) or silk.

The backing should also be made from a natural material like  rubber: this is the best choice as it’s not only sustainable, but also very dense, which helps prolong the life of the carpet and helps soundproof the room.

Buyers who are looking to luxury items for a higher standard of quality will search out handmade designer rugs. But how do you identify the ethical and eco rug makers?

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Look for the Goodweave Mark

Goodweave is an international, not for profit mark whose main aim is ending child labour in the rug industry. As a result, their certification programme, which began in 1994 in India, has been certifying rug designers to not only end illegal child labour but provide consumers with a reliable mark for ethical brands.

There are also other luxury rugs designers, such as London based Bazaar Velvet, who proudly display the Goodweave logo on their site and tout the organisation in their bio. Recognition like this within the industry is key to not only identifying a trusted rug designer but ensuring ethical standards going forward.

 Image: Bazaar Velvet

Image: Bazaar Velvet

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Image: Bazaar Velvet

Find Inventive Eco-Designers  

A post on the  Goodweave blog  points out that those in the interiors industry don’t always make the distinction between ethical and eco. However, there are rug designers who find inventive ways to do both.

Namely,  there’s  Knots Rugs, whose designer Jurgen Dahlmanns noted that 5% of the raw materials used to make rugs never made it to the final product. He then decided to bridge the gap between ‘eco’ and ‘ethical’ by creating a collection of rugs upcycling  these offcuts.  

Hand knotted rugs are created with more time, care and have a team of designers behind that who craft these amazing rugs. Their work can be ethically sourced, using high quality materials, giving you the perfect rug for your home that will last for years to come.

Dahlmanns first became inspired to create eco-rugs  while trekking in Nepal.  He was impressed not only by the Nepalese traditions, but by the surrounding beauty of the natural world there, which made him realise he could be a guardian of the Earth through his work:  “It is my conviction that we bear responsibility for our actions, both as producers and as consumers. Everything we do has global and social implications, and we have an obligation to make sure that we cause no damage to the world and its population.”

Jurgen Dahlmanns rugs. Image: rugstar.com

Jurgen Dahlmanns rugs. Image: rugstar.com

Jurgen Dahlmanns rugs. Image: rugstar.com

Jurgen Dahlmanns rugs. Image: rugstar.com

Go Traditional

Antique rugs look luxurious and bring timeless style to any room, but you need to know what to look for.

For example, there should be a slight sheen to wood rugs; this indicates a high lanolin content and durability. The more clarity of line there is in the design, the more skilled the weaver, so this is something to keep an eye on–the more the carpet resembles a painting, the better.

When a rug is dyed with natural colours, green, rose, saffron yellow and purple are highly valued shades, and the rug will have more value if the design is a complete one-off (even though hand woven rugs are unique in the sense that they may carry man-made flaws that machine made rugs wouldn’t have, they often follow the same patterns).

It’s worth getting a rug appraised. If you find a high quality  antique rug that’s in good condition, it will only go up in value over time, making these rugs a great investment and something that can be passed down through the generations.

There are 5 of the main kinds  of traditional rugs that we think add a touch of chic to your home, no matter what the era.

1. Kilims

One of our favorite types of rugs are Kilims. There’s something irresistible about a Kilim that was woven a while ago. The colours have slightly faded and the wool has softened, you know it’s coming from a world, a culture, so different from our own, that it is, in the true sense of the word, exotic. We’ve carried on collecting and we’ve used the experience from these last twenty years to put together this particular collection, which we believe, represents only the very best.

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2. Bayats

There is a certain look that a rug acquires when it has been subjected to a few generations of life. It becomes, with the passing years, no longer solely a decorative piece, but part of the narrative to a story. The design is less prominent, the colours have faded and the wool has worn so that the warps and wefts finally have their moment in the light. Such a rug will give any room, traditional or modern, something special. There is, however, often a problem. These antique rugs are hard to find and often full of holes that make for a perilous passage as you traverse them with your Martini. Our collection of Bayats are vintage rugs, (meaning they are somewhere between twenty five and fifty years old), that have been repaired, cleaned and evenly trimmed to achieve the same effect as an antique piece. And, best of all, they come without holes.

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3. Ottoman Garden Rugs

Ottoman Garden rugs are defined by their traditional decorative  motifs such as flowers, fruits and animals. These themes were popular throughout the duration of one of the world’s most successful empires: the Ottoman.  What’s more, it was thought that such patterns  held mystic powers of good luck, abundance and happiness.  Today, the rugs are hand-knotted in the area bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan, using hand-spun, vegetable dyed Ghazni wool, chosen for its exceptionally soft, strong and lustrous texture.

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4. Flokati Rugs

These are perhaps the most simple, and most luxurious of rugs. Greek ones are made of pure wool, whilst even more luxurious flokati rugs are made from alpaca wool. In both cases, no animals need to die, making these a soft, furry option for vegetarians and animal lovers. They feel like a dream under the feet, and can be washed in the bathtub with shampoo.

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5. Atlas Berber Rugs

Despite being woven in a distinctive way for centuries, there’s something about  Berber rugs  that always feels  utterly modern. Hand knotted by Berber tribespeople living in the snow capped Atlas mountains, these are made of high quality  wool and woven by hand, adding a personal artisanal touch to something that will last for generations.

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