Eco-Friendly Countertop Materials for Kitchen and Bath
Many homeowners love the look of natural stone countertops, especially granite. But are you aware of the negative impact these natural countertops can have on the environment?
Sadly, granite scores pretty low on the “green” scale. It is not a renewable resource – meaning once it’s gone from the earth, it’s gone. And in some parts of the world, granite mining practices can leave open pits that result in toxic ground water. Importing granite from other parts of the world creates a gigantic carbon footprint. And some are even saying granite contains radioactive uranium and emits radon gasses as it breaks down over time!
Whew! Now that I’ve totally bummed you out about granite countertops, I want to share several stylish, earth-friendly alternatives for your kitchen and bath. These countertops not only utilize renewable and sustainable resources, they also maintain and even surpass the durability of more conventional countertop materials. Plus, you won’t have to be a bit concerned about dangerous off gasses.
Concrete countertops have been in vogue for a number of years. They look stunning and if you choose a contractor that uses an eco-friendly concrete mix, you have hit the green jackpot! Concrete mixes with a minimum of Portland cement are the best. Portland cement is an energy hog to manufacture. Preferable mixes utilize industrial waste by-products that actually creates a stronger end product and it will last just as long as natural stone.
Ground glass and stone can also be uses as sparkly substitute for traditional aggregates in kitchen and bath areas. Recycled glass fiber will reinforce concrete and cuts down on the need for Portland cement. Glass-fiber reinforced concrete, or GFRC, can cost more than regular concrete, but you may be able to get away with using less for your kitchen or bath countertop. Standard concrete countertops must be poured at 1 1/2- to 2-inches thick. A GFRC mix allows for counter thickness of 3/4- to 1-inch.
Seal your green concrete countertop with a water-based, food safe polyurethane.
I never imagined waste aluminum could be used as an alternative countertop option. These eco-friendly, solid surface countertops incorporate tendrils of aluminum scrap to a resin mix. This creates intricate designs that glimmer and shimmer in the sunlight. Scrap aluminum shavings are typically burned as part of the recycling process. This highly polluting step is skipped and the scraps go directly into making your brand new kitchen and bath countertops!
You can choose from several countertop colors and finishes to make a unique design statement in your kitchen or bath. These counters install the same way as other solid surface materials. There is no on-going maintenance and minor nicks and cuts are easily removed with a light sanding.
HDPE, or high-density polyethylene, is the stuff that comprises in excess of 15 percent of our landfill refuse. HDPE is a petroleum-based plastic that is used to make everything from milk jugs to Tyvek and laundry detergent bottles. It is commonly recycled to make similar products. However, environmentally conscious companies are now using post-consumer plastics to make solid surface countertops that are perfect for the kitchen and bath.
Just be advised that while durable, these alternative countertops are not designed to be used as a cutting surface. As with laminate counters, always use a cutting board to protect the countertop. Plastic countertops do not require a sealer and are easy to install. They come in a variety of fun colors and textures, and with proper care, will last for years!
If you love the look of terrazzo, you will go crazy for eco-friendly recycled glass countertops! Shards of post-consumer glass are mixed with “green” concrete or resin to create extraordinary counter surfaces for your kitchen and bath. Don’t worry about the manufacturing process – that’s environmentally friendly as well! You can choose from a variety of standard color options, or create your own custom combination.
This eco-friendly surface must be sealed like other concrete countertops. Resin versions will take on a mirror-like finish when polished.
You must think I’m crazy mentioning recycled paper countertops, but I’m here to say I’ve actually seen one and they are incredible! Look for a manufacturer that uses 100% recycled consumer paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Waste paper fibers are combined with a water-based resin compound and compressed under extreme temperatures.. Recycled paper countertops withstand water, wear just as well as solid surface materials and come in a variety of colors. They do require regular maintenance with application of natural oil or wax to protect the surface – but that’s not much different than stone countertops.
Look for Eco-Friendly Countertop Materials that Are:
- Locally Accessed
If you fancy the warm look of wood countertops, bamboo is a great alternative to old-growth hardwoods. Bamboo is a fast-growing, sustainable product that is highly regarded for its durability. Natural oil treatments will protect the surface and give your bamboo countertop a lovely sheen. Simply sand away minor cut marks and scratches. Bamboo looks equally beautiful in a modern kitchen or a spa-like bathroom.
© 2012 lindacee