I’m all for green building — especially when it involves eco-renovations that take into account more than just some CFL bulbs and a solar panel. But dirt floors?

It’s a growing trend, according to a piece in the NYT yesterday. The “earthen floors” are primarily made of mud, but may also include other materials like lime, sand, or fiber — but let’s not forget they’re primarily made of mud. As in dirt. Yeah.

[Homeowners installing earthen floors] are part of a new breed of environmentally conscious homeowners who are willing to forgo traditional floorings like hardwood, carpeting and concrete for the supposed benefits of earthen floors: a reduction in heating costs and environmental impact and, at least in the eyes of some, an improvement in looks.

They are part of a small movement interested in “natural building” on the fringes of green architecture. But they consider green architecture to be overly focused on energy efficiency, while they are concerned with the eco-friendliness of the entire process. The idea, according to Lloyd Kahn, a former shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, is to use “materials that have as little processing as possible, like dirt, straw and bamboo.”

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

It is hardly a new or chic movement: millions of poor people around the globe use natural materials like dirt for their homes whether they want to or not. But with the growing environmental awareness in this country, Mr. Kahn said, there is greater interest in natural building materials like dirt.

My first thought was “dirty socks, anyone?” But the floors are sealed with a mixture of linseed oil and beeswax that theoretically makes them firm and water-repellent. They don’t, however, do well with high heels, or chair legs.

But this doesn’t phase true believers:

“The imperfections just add to the character of the floors,” said [one homeowner]. “We’ve had every kind of mess you can imagine. Some of the stains show, but it only makes these floors more beautiful, like an aging leather jacket.”

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

An aging leather jacket made of dirt.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.