Design Dilemma: Sustainable Kitchen Countertops
It’s hard not to buy a hunk of marble or granite for your kitchen without cringing at the environmental implications. Yes, you’ve just carved out a chunk of one of the earth’s finite resources and plunked it down in your kitchen. But what will happen when the marble or granite trend grows old? What will you be doing with that beautiful hunk of rock?
To avoid this ethical and environmental dilemma, there are a number of kitchen countertop alternatives that have appeared on the market in recent years. Here are a few of them:
1) PaperStone. (Pictured above)
PaperStone countertops are made with either 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard or 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and a resin system that contains no synthetic or petroleum products. So this is one countertop that you don’t have to feel guilty about using! The look simulates the look of stone, but is supposed to have the durability of steel. Water absorption is less than 1% with a compressive strength of 45,000 PSI. Remember, this countertop is made of paper — meaning the heat resistance in only to 350 degrees. While Paperstone comes in a range of colors from slate to cabernet, to sienna to evergreen, it ain’t cheap. A half-inch 8′ x 5′ slab costs about $878. The same slab at 1.25 inches thick costs $1847.
Bamboo floors have been the eco-friendly choice in flooring for many years now. But did you know you can also install bamboo countertops? Made of fine layers of bamboo strips, bamboo countertops are cross-laminated and heat pressed together to provide stability and to prevent warping. What’s so great about bamboo? It’s one of the best alternatives out there to the widespread clear-cutting of our old growth forests. Bamboo is 16% harder than maple, often used for cutting boards and it doesn’t require replanting. Best of all, it is re-harvestable every 4.5 years. An 8′ x 4′ sheet of 1 inch bamboo plywood will set you back only $245.
3) Kirei Board.
An engineered panel product constructed from the stalks of the Sorghum plant grown around the world for food, Kirei board offers a unique textured look that is said to be strong, while remaining lightweight. The sorghum stalks left over after harvest are heat-pressed with a non-toxic adhesive to get the board. Kirei board runs about $369 for a 6′ x 9′ ft, 30 mm sheet. The same size sheet in a 20 mm thickness runs about $259.
4) Recycled tiles.
Remember when every kitchen had tile countertops? Tile has fallen out of favor due to the tendency for grout to collect dirt and grime, yet, beautiful recycled tiles are one of the most environmentally-friendly countertop solutions out there. There are two main options — either recycled ceramic or recycled glass tiles. Some of the most eco-friendly products are 100 percent recycled and come in a variety of colors, with either a matte or glossy finish. Prices will vary depending on the type of tile you select, but generally run from $1-$2 a square foot.
5) Recycled Salvaged Hardwood.
Salvaged hardwood has been in vogue for many other uses. Now, finally salvaged hardwood is being used for countertops. One of the best things about reclaimed wood is that it can add an instant patina of age and interest to any environment. The hardwood used for this purpose includes fir, myrtle and madrone. Prices vary depending on where the wood comes from, but are usually quite reasonable.
6) Recycled Glass Terrazo.
Terrazo is a method of creating hard surfaces by combining aggregate, such as marble chips, with concrete. The resulting material is poured into place and smoothed out using grinders and polishers. The look can be quite stunning. Companies such as Vetrazzo, Enviroglass, and Icestone have taken this method and replaced the stone aggregate with pre and post consumer glass chips, creating eye catching surfaces.
Images: Inhabitat.com; viaremodelista.com; thenaturalabode.com; kitchenbacksplashes.blogspot.com