Good-Looking, Eco-Friendly Products for Your New Countertops
Maybe you have thought about replacing your 1950's Formica countertop with exotic granite, but it's too eco-unfriendly--not renewable and transporting it across continents and oceans burns fuel by the boatload. The thought of a granite slab leaves you cold.
Fortunately, there are several rock-solid, yet green countertop choices.
Recycled materials can be combined with resins--or sometimes cementto create slab-like materials that give much the look of granite.
Paper can be mixed with resins and pigments, then heated and compressed to produce a hard, heat-resistant surface in a variety of colors. It carries a honed look. Recycled metal and glass look sharp when they are mixed with resins or cement/concrete in much the same way as paper.
As the demand for green products grows, manufacturers are using more imaginative sources of materials, including plastics, crushed light bulbs, and porcelain toilets. In all cases, the resins used should be water-based and have no formaldehyde to minimize the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The same goes for surface sealers.
Countertops: Wood or Butcher Block
Particularly if they are made with reclaimed wood, these are very eco-friendly. The wood can add substantial charm to an older house. Some argue that old, reclaimed wood is more likely to be cut from old-growth trees, hence is finer-grained and denser, leading to a more durable surface.
If the wood is new, you want to be certain that the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has certified it as a product of responsibly managed forests.
Concrete counters are poured on site. They can be colored and shaped as you desire and can add a rustic or exotic look. As with all cement or concrete products, make sure it includes fly ash (a product of coal-fired power plants) as a partial substitute for Portland cement, which uses a huge amount of energy to produce.
Yes, panda food can be used to make your countertop (actually, pandas munch a different variety). Bamboo is extremely eco-friendly. Technically a grass, it grows rapidly and does not need to be replanted. However, Bamboo is susceptible to scorching, so if you are careless with your hot pots, you might want another product.
There has been some concern about farming and labor practices in the production of bamboo products, so be sure to look for FSC certification.
So there are many eco-friendly options for your countertops. They can be dazzling or rustic, exotic or demur--the choice is up to you.