When it came time for Simon Lewis and Wendy Smith to replace the floors in their Edwardian-era home in the Potrero Hill section of San Francisco, they struggled with the options. "It had to be beautiful," Lewis says, "but we also wanted to make sure we were conserving nature."

In the end, they chose EcoTimber's White Tigerwood, an amber-striped hardwood from Bolivia. The 3-inch tongue- and-groove planks came from trees that had been grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers and were selectively cut down one at a time, rather than clear-cut in one fell swoop. "The decision to buy eco-friendly wood was the socially responsible thing to do," Lewis says.

Lewis and Smith are part of a growing group of consumers who, when it comes to flooring, actually can see the forest for the trees. They're driving the market for "sustainable" products—those made from trees that have been raised and harvested with minimal damage to the environment.

Unlike homeowners of a few decades ago, who had fewer options when it came to saving trees, today's environmentally conscious remodelers don't have to sacrifice the look, feel, and durability of wood underfoot. In fact, sustainable flooring comes in all the popular species: white and red oak, cherry, maple, red birch, hickory, even exotics like teak, rosewood, and cumaru. And it doesn't cost a fortune. Four-inch wide, medium-grade American cherry that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)—an international nonprofit organization promoting responsible forest management — costs $5 a square foot, the same as standard cherry.

To get the FSC's stamp of approval, forest operations must meet 57 criteria, including protection of local wildlife, minimal use of chemical pesticides, even the guarantee that loggers can unionize. If a forest makes the grade, its wood products get branded with the FSC logo and a "chain of custody" number, which allows them to be traced them back to their source.

By 2005, there were 556 U.S. companies turning out FSC-certified lumber, up from 20 when the program was founded a decade ago, and 4,000 internationally. While the flooring they produce still makes up a small share of the U.S. market, it's growing fast. EcoTimber, a supplier in San Rafael, California, whose clients include Pottery Barn and Nike, has seen its sales of FSC-certified wood double in the last three years. "Environmental concerns are starting to have a very real effect on the wood marketplace, and it's about time," says Dan Harrington, EcoTimber's director of architectural sales and marketing.

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