Creating a Brighter Future Using Sustainable Flooring Options on Campus

The vast majority of colleges and universities have pledged to consider sustainability in their purchasing decisions. Not only are students demanding more eco-friendly practices, but campuses are taking an integrative approach to fulfilling their sustainability goals. Higher education is leading by example, creating healthier and brighter futures for students and employees.

While reducing carbon footprint across campuses is a long-term goal, procurement teams can meet this goal by incorporating environmental impact into purchasing. There is a lot of “low-hanging sustainability fruit,” and sustainable flooring for higher education is one of them. Selecting products with greener materials and manufacturing processes can make an immediate impact in reducing harmful emissions, energy consumption, and landfill waste. Many progressive colleges and universities now mandate a minimum recycled material content or achievement of FloorScore® IAQ certifications for all new floor purchases.

Sustainable Flooring Options for Higher Education

Choosing sustainable flooring options does not limit your choices. Manufacturers have responded to market demands and offer a wide range of eco-friendly products, which includes carbon-neutral manufacturing. Options include:


Modular and carpet tile flooring offers flexibility not just for replacing worn areas easily, but also for integrating recycled content. Many leading manufacturers also have commercial recycling programs where old carpet tiles get reclaimed and remanufactured into new tiles containing up to 70% recycled materials. Biobased fibers like polylactic acid (PLA) from corn or polyurethane derived from soybeans are also being used to reduce the environmental impact.

Bamboo and Hardwood

Bamboo offers advantages as one of the fastest-growing plant materials, reaching maturity in just five to seven years versus 50+ years for traditional hardwoods. Both bamboo and hardwood floors may qualify for sustainability certifications like the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Opting for prefinished flooring avoids the toxic fumes of sanding and site finishing after installation. For these beautiful natural products, refinishing allows rejuvenation for decades rather than replacement.


Sourced from the outer bark of cork oak trees, cork offers incredible green credentials as a rapidly renewable resource. The tree bark is harvested every nine years without harming the tree’s lifespan.

Antimicrobial and comfortable underfoot, cork also absorbs sound effectively and offers natural resilience to indentation from heavy furniture. Cork requires no sealants or finishes, making it easy to keep floors clean and healthy long-term.

Rubber Flooring

Manufactured from recycled tire rubber or shoe material, rubber floors provide exceptional durability and antimicrobial properties without relying on harmful PVCs, plasticizers, or halogens. Rubber’s slip-resistant qualities also prevent injuries in athletics spaces, along with providing ergonomic cushioning and acoustic absorption.

As a natural material, rubber flooring requires no coatings, waxes, or sealants in use, maintaining healthy indoor air quality.

Building Sustainability into Higher Education Procurement Requirements

Procurement teams need to build sustainability into their requirements to meet the increasing focus on environmentally friendly initiatives in colleges and universities. Here are some of the key steps to help meet green goals.

Research and Set Clear Sustainability Requirements

Get familiar with key environmental certifications like FloorScore, LEED, FSC, and Green Label Plus. Specify minimums for recycled content, rapidly renewable ingredients, low VOC adhesives for installation, and eligibility for energy rebate programs.

Audit Existing Flooring Conditions

Before floor replacement, consider refinishing or spot repair first to extend the useful life of the floor. Scan for moisture issues or poor adhesive bonding that may simply require fixes like added vapor barriers rather than a complete tear-out.

Reuse fosters sustainability.

Select Sustainable Vendors

Ask pointed questions to assess corporate environmental practices for reclamation, energy conservation in manufacturing, plant-based materials use, and installation methods to limit waste. Favor local or regional vendors to reduce transportation miles for deliveries.

Train Staff on Green Floor Care

Eco-friendly cleaners prevent chemical residues. Learn best practices for spot cleaning versus coatings or stripping for minimal environmental impact long-term.

Finding Sustainable Flooring Options for Higher Education Institutions

E&I Cooperative Services is the only non-profit sourcing cooperative focused solely on serving the education community. As a member-owned organization, E&I Cooperative Services works for the benefit of its 6,000 members to competitively solicit cooperative contracts from leading suppliers. Leveraging bulk buying power produces considerable savings and can allow you to work with local or regional suppliers that understand the unique needs of higher education. Ready-to-use contracts also save time in the procurement process while meeting competitive solicitation requirements.

Contracts include multiple options for sustainable flooring for higher education institutions, including design and installation services, from some of the nation’s leading suppliers with local providers.

Contact E&I Cooperative Services today to view available contracts for sustainable flooring.


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