Sustainable design is a refurbishment concept with growing popularity. As more is learned about air quality for the people inside a home, more homeowners wish to find refurbishment products that are both safe and environmentally responsible, countertop materials are just one part of the bigger picture. Although there is no perfect countertop product, there are many materials that fit within eco friendly building practices and we intend to explore all kitchen and countertop materials and options. Going green on your countertop materials doesn’t mean it can’t be sexy. Remember wood is green.
Recycled Countertop Materials
Many countertop products on the market today contain at least a small portion of recycled material. One of the high-fashion examples of this trend is a product called speckled. This product is made from recycled beer bottles and other recycled glass; the crushed glass is set in a cement-based resin. The idea is to give a glass reflection that looks stunning. The countertops will last for years, and can be remanufactured into a new countertop at the end of their life span. Because of this cradle-to-cradle program, speckled offers a unique look and eco-conscious option for the homeowner.
Recycled paper has also found its way into countertop materials. A product called Paperstone, and a similar product known as Richlite, is made with up to 100% post-consumer recycled paper and cardboard. It is considered a solid surface product, meaning the colour goes all the way through to the back of the countertop. These products are very dense, and are actually used on skateboard ramps and exterior cladding on buildings among other things. Although it can scratch, minor scratches can be buffed out of the countertop, making this a product that will last for years to come.
Many porcelain and ceramic tiles now contain a percentage of both pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled material. These durable countertop material options last for years; the longer a product lasts, therefore needing to be replaced less often, the more sustainable it is considered to be. Choosing tiles made as close to the job site as possible will reduce transportation costs and emissions – something to consider with your countertop materials.
Recycled Plastic Countertop Products
Solid surface countertop materials, such as Dupont Corian, now offer colours that contain pre-consumer recycled materials. The recycled material is recovered from the manufacturing process of other colours within the product offering and made into new countertops in new colour families. Take a look at this lovely example:
Plastic laminates are also now available in green options. By using recycled plastic, resins and glues without formaldehyde and glues with low VOC off-gassing, these materials become much more environmentally friendly than they were in the past. While not every colour option is considered to be green, more and more pattern options become available all the time.
Naturally Green Countertops
Granite, although mined from the earth, can be considered a green countertop option if the colour choice is made carefully. Granite and other stones are mined all around the globe; by selecting one mined within 500 miles of the job site, homeowners will cut down on the emissions and costs associated with extra transportation. Stone countertops will last a lifetime with proper care, making them a solid choice for any eco-conscious consumer.
Similar to granite are the quartz countertop materials product, such as Cambria, Zodiac and Silestone. These are made of quartz crystals which are often too small to be of use in other industries. Sustainable manufacturing processes, very long life span and the fact that no chemical sealers are needed, make quartz countertops a viable option for green building projects.
Concrete countertops have increased in popularity over the past several years. Because the raw materials in concrete can be expensive to transport, care should be taken to use material quarries as close as possible to the job site. Concrete countertops will last for years, and are easily recycled into aggregate for new concrete at the end of their lifecycle, although that’s pretty unlikely because you could just simply refurbish in ten or fifteen years time. Let’s take a look at a nice image of a concrete countertop.
It looks a little bit vintage, but I like it, feels friendly and cosy.
Wood has been used on countertops for centuries, and is again becoming a fashionable choice. Choosing locally grown woods from sustainably managed forests will ensure the homeowner that the trees harvested were replaced. On laminated countertop products, such as most butcher block options, formaldehyde-free glues should be used for the very best results.
A kitchen or bath refurbishment project can be beautiful, functional and environmentally responsible by choosing the right finishing materials. More information on green countertop materials can be found at the Green Home Guide website.