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Written by Ashlee Sang
While rugs might be the last thing on your decorating list, they have a huge impact on the look and feel of your room. The right sustainable rug can create coziness, make a statement, and anchor your furniture in your space.
Generally, rugs require a huge investment and need to withstand heavy foot traffic. Be sure to choose a floor covering that’s not only functional for your space, but also beautifully and ethically made using sustainable materials.
Most box store rugs are made from synthetic fibers like Olefin (aka polypropylene) and nylon, which are derived from petrochemicals and may emit toxic VOCs in your apartment. They likely also use dyes that can damage the environment and your health.
Rugs are an especially great item to get from an artisan brand, as they have a rich tradition in almost every society around the world. Even if you don’t get an artisan rug, it’s important to also consider the maker—did the factory worker or artisan receive a fair wage in safe working conditions? If you’re not sure, consider skipping that rug.
As you search for your perfect rug, be on the lookout for natural fibers and dyes, brands that are vetted by third parties and/or certifications, and statements about the brand’s values that align with your personal standards. There are so many chic, sustainable options available, why settle for anything less?
Made by artisans across Latin America with a Hudson, NY storefront, MINNA sells rugs in cotton, flat weave, palm, and shaggy styles in neutrals with bold, abstract geometric patterns. Each option comes with a description of its maker. The shop is queer woman-owned and a majority queer or woman-operated business.
Offering understated patterns in colors that suit any room, Hook & Loom uses eco-cotton (a recycled cotton fiber blend) with eco-friendly dyes. Their natural wool rugs are completely undyed and are available in the natural colors of the sheep. The company avoids latex and chemicals in its rugs and backings. They also ensure that their employees (along with the employees of all of their partners) are paid fairly and have safe working conditions. Styles come in loom-hooked and flatweave, and they even have a handy guide to help you choose which type of rug will be best for your home.
Bold and graphic, these “responsible rugs” are sourced directly from indigenous artisans that use materials that are either natural, eco-friendly man-made, or recycled.
Choose from tons of artisan brands from around the world that have an ethical stamp of approval based on many factors (fair trade, USA-made, POC-owned, women-owned, vegan, etc.). These options work for around your entire apartment and have serious Anthropologie vibes. Plus, 1% of every purchase is donated to a grassroots organization and all shipping is 100% carbon-offset.
The Citizenry collaborate with workshops and artisans around the world, blending contemporary designs with traditional techniques. By partnering with craftsmen, they achieve premium quality and support fair trade standards. The Citizenry team personally travel to each country, and by doing so they create strong relationships with their collaborators and are able to audit the locally sourced materials.
Natural Area Rugs sources rugs made from renewable, natural, and eco-conscious materials like grass, sisal, jute, organic cotton, and wool. You also have the option of ordering a custom rug in order to ensure it fits your space perfectly. They do carry polyester rugs as well, so just make sure you’re choosing one made from natural materials!
Iconic in the design space, West Elm has made strides in supporting sustainable initiatives and ethical treatment of its workers. As the first retailer to use the Nest Seal of Ethical Handcraft, its rugs preserve traditional craft techniques.
These no-frills rugs in muted colors and designs are handwoven with 100% jute. As a company, the staff supports local and national nonprofits, both through financial contributions and volunteer hours.
Made with polyester yarn spun from 100% recycled plastic water bottles, Under The Canopy rugs offer an eco-friendly option with simple patterns. With attention “from the farm to the corporate office,” the brand is GOTS, FSC, Fair Trade, OEKO-TEX, Wel-Trak certified.
These super neutral, durable wool rugs are handwoven in “The City of Weavers” in India. Its factory is rooted in weaving history, where besides producing quality rugs, it also provides education to employees’ children and runs renewable energy projects.
YaYa & Co. is a retailer that sources luxury organic bedding and home goods from small manufacturers and artisans worldwide while educating them on saving electricity, water, and waste reduction. Its products are vibrant and bold, including its one-of-a-kind vintage rugs. With each purchase made off its website, the brand plants trees in the Amazon to help with habitat conservation for the species living in the protected area. YaYa & Co. only uses recyclable materials in its packaging and does not use cardboard inside to shape its bedding.
Buying secondhand is one of the most sustainable choices we can make because it prevents items that already exist from ending in the landfill while they still have plenty of life in them. AptDeco is a curated online thrift experience with name brand and vintage options. If you live in the New York City metro area, this might be a valuable resource for you. AptDeco even offers pickup, delivery, and assembly as far as Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Hudson Valley.
With a focus on washability, Lorena Canals’ wool and cotton rugs work great for homes with kids, or any space with lots of visitors. Not only are the rugs handmade and curated in collections featuring designers around the world, each purchase also gives back to an education program in India.
Minzuu works with artisans via cooperatives. These weavers leverage and preserve traditional techniques using recycled and sustainable materials, such as salvaged textiles, organic cotton and undyed wool and alpaca, and non-toxic dyes. The profits support future impact with 10% getting reinvested in new products with current partners and another 10% going toward exploring new collaborations.
This unique “by the tile” system allows for customized sizing, in addition to its wide array of prints and colors. Sustainability is key for Flor, as it makes its rugs from reclaimed and recycled materials (such as old fishing nets and recycled plastic bottles) in energy-efficient facilities. It also takes back old Flor rug tiles for recycling.