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Eco-Friendly Rug Shopping: What To Look For & Avoid

Last updated on March 30, 2020

If you're in the market for a rug, you've likely noticed the overwhelming number of options in every color and pattern imaginable. But in the search for a cozy new carpet, it's important to look beyond the design to find a healthy, eco-friendly product.

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What to avoid when you're rug shopping.

Some synthetic floor coverings can reduce the air quality in your home by emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs)1. Found in all types of home staples from paint to mattresses, VOCs have been linked to itchy noses, headaches, and nausea. According to the EPA1, VOC concentrations can be up to 10 times higher indoors than outdoors.

And why, you might be wondering? Well, synthetic fibers—which are used in many upholstered fabrics and other home textiles—are often petroleum-based and made with chemical flame retardants and stain treatments that give off the gas, even when they're not in use. Since rugs are often placed in high-traffic areas of your home, it's important to make sure that they stand up to the wear and tear without emitting harsh chemicals.

If this all sounds overwhelming, fear not! A few simple tweaks to your purchasing patterns can make the whole process easier and help make your home a safe, relaxing space.

How to find an eco-friendly rug.

So, how can you find the one? The easiest way is to stick with sustainably produced natural fibers that are biodegradable. Materials like jute, sea grass, bamboo, wool, and organic or recycled cotton are cleaner alternatives to polyester and nylon, and they all add a beautiful textural element to any room.

As you browse, check to make sure that your rug's backing or mat is eco-friendly as well. Look for the Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus certification, or simply skip synthetic latex, plastic, and foam rubber in favor of natural latex.

If you're shopping for something secondhand (first of all, great idea!), try local thrift stores, swap sites, or Craigslist. Or check sites like Chairish or eBay for kilim for dhurrie rugs, which tend to be made of natural fibers like cotton or wool and are often one-of-a-kind patterns.

And finally, as with all items you bring into your home, consider the entire life cycle of the rug and the resources it takes to get it to you. Having a new rug shipped from halfway around the world uses up precious energy, while buying something pre-owned from a local shop or neighbor will have a lower environmental impact in the end.

Now that you know what you're looking for, it's time to shop! Here are a few of our top underfoot picks.

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Pottery Barn Trina Rug

Made from recycled materials and available in two beautiful color palettes, this option starts at $149.

Bambeco Jute Seascape Rugs

Made of pure sustainable jute, this neutral, subtly patterned piece works with almost any décor. From $375 for a 5-by-8-foot.

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Pottery Barn Cyndy Kilim Recycled Yarn Indoor/Outdoor Rug

This versatile option is made from recycled materials and reversible for twice the wear both indoors and out. From $47 for a 2-by-3-foot.

Coyuchi Ano Nuevo Rug

Made of 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, this lovely option goes for $68 for a 2-by-3-foot.

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West Elm Sweater Wool Rug

Handspun and handwoven by artisans in India and made of 95% wool and 5% cotton, this West Elm rug goes for $99.99 for a 3-by-5-foot.

Hook and Loom Eco Cotton Rugs

All of Hook and Loom's colored yarns are crafted from recovered textile fibers, and their rugs are handwoven on wooden looms without dyes or chemicals. Choose from a wide variety of colors and patterns from $28 for 2-by-3-foot.

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Birch Lane Constance Rug

Made of 100% wool with a cotton backing, this traditional print sells for $67 for a 2½-by-4-foot.

Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.