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The Homeowner’s Guide to Sustainable Tile

Joe Roberts

Published on September 12, 2023

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The Homeowner’s Guide to Sustainable Tile

Do you want to floor your bathroom or kitchen with sustainably sourced and manufactured tile? Read our guide to eco-friendly tiles to learn how.

To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

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Tile is a versatile and classy flooring option for any bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room. Even some bedrooms and living rooms benefit from the charm and longevity of tile flooring. Since floor tiles come in various shapes, colors, and textures, anyone can find tile they’ll love – but did you know that tiles can also be eco-friendly?

Tile products crafted from renewable raw materials in local manufacturing facilities are among the best flooring options for anyone hoping to build or remodel sustainably – bonus points if you get your tiles from a company that practices green building techniques to recycle post-consumer products or reduces waste and emissions in the manufacturing process.

If you want to tile some or all of your home’s floors or backsplashes while minimizing your environmental impact, keep reading. We’ll teach you which types of tile are most sustainable and which you should avoid. We’ll even point you to some of the tile industry’s most eco-friendly manufacturers so you can source your tile responsibly.

Hire a local pro to install your sustainable tile floors

The most sustainable types of tile

Eco-friendliness is all about sustainably sourcing materials, reducing energy consumption, and prioritizing recyclability. If a tile can only be called sustainable by one of these metrics, installing it may not have as positive an impact as you might think.

To illustrate, a building material might be made from renewable natural resources, but if the production process is energy-intensive, the product’s carbon footprint might outweigh its benefits. Similarly, a product might be energy-efficient to produce. If it can’t be reused or recycled at the end of its life cycle, it will eventually contribute to landfill overflow.

To get genuinely sustainable tiles for your home, you have to find options that strike a healthy balance between all of these factors. The actual sustainability of a tile will depend on the company that manufactured it, but these types of tile tend to be the most sustainable:

  • Ceramic tile
  • Glass tile
  • Terracotta tile
  • Porcelain tile
  • Stoneware tile

Each of these products is all-natural, and they can be reused or upcycled after you’re done with them if installed and demolished properly. While they do take some energy and water to produce, they’re still more efficient than other types of flooring.

These products can help a building earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. 

Begin your search for sustainable tile by finding options you like that are crafted from these eco-friendly materials. Then, narrow your search by picking out the options made by nearby companies that focus on sustainable manufacturing practices. 

The least sustainable types of tile

Unfortunately, the most sustainable floor coverings aren’t always the most affordable. Laminate and LVT or vinyl tile can be cheaper than ceramic and porcelain options depending on where you live. However, they’re also significantly less eco-friendly.

For one thing, vinyl and laminate tiles usually can’t be recycled. For another, vinyl tiles can contribute to global warming and fossil fuel depletion three times as much as ceramic tiles, according to an environmental product declaration (EPD) from the Tile Council of North America.

Lastly, many laminate and vinyl tiles release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) after installation. VOCs are toxic chemicals that negatively affect air quality and can even act as greenhouse gases

So, while you could save some money opting for these materials depending on local market factors, they’re bad options if you want to prioritize sustainability in your home’s construction or remodel.  

How to source sustainable tile

Now that you know which tiles to get and which to avoid, our last tip for getting sustainable tile is to shop locally. Tiles produced in your neck of the woods will have a significantly lower environmental impact than those produced thousands of miles away for one simple reason: transportation.

Every mile your tiles have to travel to reach your home is a mile that requires the burning of fossil fuels. This means that getting tiles that were made on the other side of the world won’t be as eco-friendly as installing tiles that were made within a few hundred miles of your home.

Of course, you might not have a sustainable tile manufacturer in your city or town. If so, broaden your definition of shopping locally and opt for tiles from the closest possible manufacturer. The closer, the better. You can either seek out a manufacturer yourself or work with your contractor or interior designer to find one.

Tile manufacturers that offer sustainable products

This list of tile companies that strive for sustainability can help you begin your search for eco-friendly floor and wall tiles:

Daltile

This kitchen is floored with Daltile’s Prime ceramic tile collection. Image source: Daltile

Daltile prioritizes sustainability by measurably reducing its carbon footprint, reusing over 80% of its wastewater, and incorporating recycled or reclaimed materials in nearly all its tile collections. This focus on eco-friendliness, combined with the company’s vast array of ceramic tiles, makes Daltile an excellent place to get sustainable tile. 

Mineral Tiles

These pool tiles from Mineral Tiles are manufactured from recycled glass. Image source: Mineral Tiles

Mineral Tiles manufactures charming tiles out of recycled glass from sources like broken windshields and bottles. Mineral Tiles’ products come in many colors and finishes, so you can choose one that works for your home. Best of all, many of this company’s tiles are more affordable than standard glass tiles. 

Heath Ceramics

This entire bathroom is tiled with Heath Ceramics’ Half Hex clay tiles. Image source: Heath Ceramics

Heath Ceramics has prioritized sustainability in several impressive ways. Firstly, it runs its factories on a combination of solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Secondly, it recycles its production wastewater so efficiently that over 50% of its annual water intake comes from its own recycled water. The company still manages to produce a wide variety of tile colors and styles to choose from.  

Fireclay Tile

The geometric ceramic tiles used on the walls of this kitchen belong to Fireclay Tiles’ Chaine Femme collection. Image source: Fireclay Tile

Fireclay Tile is another company that uses 100% renewable electricity sources to run its business. In fact, Fireclay Tile completely offsets its carbon emissions from sourcing materials, producing tiles, and transportation – and that just scratches the surface of this company’s commitment to zero waste and sustainable manufacturing. 

Livden

The tiles on this kitchen backsplash come from Livden’s Diamond collection. Image source: Livden

Livden prioritizes sustainability by recycling post-consumer materials for its tile collections. It also partners with manufacturers who belong to the U.S. Green Building Council, an organization that strives to make the construction industry more eco-friendly and sustainable.

Scalite

Each of these tiles is crafted from recycled fish scales, making them biodegradable and sustainable. Image source: Scalite

This slightly unorthodox company manufactures tiles from fish scales reclaimed from the fishing and aquaculture industry. This makes their tiles completely renewable and all-natural. Scalite tiles come in several different colors and designs.

Nature Squared

Though made from recycled eggshell, Nature Squared’s CArrelé tile collection comes in a wide variety of colors. Image source: Nature Squared

Like Scalite, Nature Squared manufactures textiles from unusual natural resources like feathers and bone. They even craft tiles with eggshells. Paired with the company’s commitment to sustainability, Nature Squared’s manufacturing practices make them a good source of stylish and eco-friendly tile. 

Sustainable tile for your home

You don’t have to skimp on style or luxury to get sustainable tiles. Tile collections made from eco-friendly or recycled materials can be every bit as stylish and low-maintenance as more harmful alternatives. While unsustainable tiles can sometimes be cheaper, the high costs of sustainable building materials are often worth their positive effect on the planet.

Find local interior designers who use eco-friendly tiles