More important, they're having an effect on the nation's forests. By 2005, FSC-certified woodlands blanketed 15.5 million acres, up from a mere 1.4 million in 1995. Internationally, the numbers are even more compelling, with 135 million acres of FSC-approved forests covering the globe.

While the FSC stamp is the gold standard, it's not the only way to get an earth-friendly wood floor. Another option is reclaimed wood, such as palm harvested from fallen trees on coconut plantations, timbers salvaged from abandoned buildings, and logs pulled from the bottoms of rivers, where they sank on their way to the mill (though some environmentalists decry underwater salvage, on the grounds that it disrupts aquatic ecosystems that have been in place for decades).

Then there's "wood" that isn't wood at all, like bamboo, a grass whose lightning-quick seven-year growth cycle makes it a favorite of many eco-conscious homeowners, and the bark of the cork oak, which when properly harvested doesn't harm the tree. Even engineered flooring—wood layers joined with low-toxicity glue and topped with a hardwood veneer — makes more use of the entire tree, thus lessening the toll on the forest.

How do you know your flooring dollar is really going back to companies with sound environmental practices? Look for a label from the FSC or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), a group founded by timber and paper companies that has advanced its own set of standards. Though less stringent than the FSC—it doesn't require a chain of custody, for example—the SFI promotes reforestation and wildlife protection.

Only about 10 percent of the typical retailer's stock is likely to be "green," so you may have to do some hunting. For a list of certified companies in your area, visit The Forest Stewardship Council website. But you shouldn't have to look too far. "The availability of products is increasing along with consumer awareness," says Tom Dietsche, program manager for the U.S. Green Building Council, which has made FSC certification a benchmark in the new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines for homebuilders. "We've made a lot of progress."

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