Many of us are used to choosing rugs for their aesthetic qualities -- you know, something that really ties the room together -- but with many traditional and classic rugs come long-standing labor issues and social inequity. Thankfully, there are growing alternatives to the industry's sad reliance on child labor and other exploitative and dangerous practices.

Stephanie Odegard is leading a charge on two fronts to help change the industry. As the founder of Odegard, Inc., one of the largest importers of Tibetan and Nepalese rugs, she is recognized not only for her keen sense of style, but, more importantly, for her rejection of child labor, commitment to local and regional crafts, and use of sustainable materials and dyes.

These efforts dovetail very nicely with those of the RugMark Foundation, the organization that Ms. Odegard helped found that's committed to ending child labor in the industry. RugMark randomly inspects the looms of companies that agree to employ adults only. Through independent certification and rigorous inspections you know your rug is child-labor-free. RugMark has freed more than 3,000 children from weaving looms, and enrolled them in educational programs providing rehabilitation, daycare, literacy programs, formal schooling and vocational training. To date, more than four million carpets bearing the RugMark label have been sold in Europe and North America.

Another popular rug company, the Barcelona-based Nanimarquina, is also working to help end child labor through their support of Care & Fair, an initiative against illegal child labor and for the support of people working in the carpet production in India, Nepal and Pakistan. Care & Fair also collaborates with manufacturers to establish and support education programs and health facilities to local workers within the industry and greater community.

By looking for rugs bearing the RugMark or Care & Fair seal, you'll be helping to reverse the trend in an industry often associated with child labor and sub-standard working conditions. Stay tuned for more on making green flooring choices, including the ins and outs of green materials for rugs.

Difficulty level: Easy