When picking the material for a kitchen countertop, people used to focus on the practical aspects of the available materials.
While, of course, the durability, longevity, and all the other practical parameters are mighty important, these days people are starting to pay more and more attention to something else – the eco-friendliness of said countertops.
Whether you’re already a well-educated person in the matter of ecology, or you have only just started learning about all of this, doesn’t matter – I’m sure in any case, you’ll find this article very helpful. After we’re done here, you will be more than prepared to pick the material for your kitchen countertop that will be both practical enough for your needs, as well as totally environmentally friendly. Let’s start by explaining some basics, though.
Of course, if finding just the best kitchen countertops materials and being sure they are as eco-friendly as they get, was as easy as going to your local seller and asking him for advice, there would be no need for this article. Unfortunately, your local seller is not necessarily interested in the ecology, and all he cares about is selling his products. That’s why, if you want to be certain that your countertop material is truly eco-friendly, it has to be certified by independent agencies, which specialize in this field. In the case of countertops, these three are the most important:
- The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – this agency, as the name implies, focuses on the forests. If you’d like to get yourself a countertop made from wood, but would like to be sure that the trees it was made from were harvested in a responsible, eco-friendly manner, then as long as it has the FSC certificate, it’s all good.
- Cradle to Cradle – CtC not only checks, whether or not the materials you choose were produced to be safe for the environment, but is also concerned with their longevity. If a material is certified by CtC, it’s both safe and will last quite a while, so it’s always a safe bet to get yourself one of these.
- GreenGuard – this agency controls the emission of low chemicals of the products and materials you buy. This is crucial for the air in your interiors, and especially so when we’re talking about your kitchen, right? If you don’t want any harmful chemicals around your kitchen, then better buy materials certified by the GreenGuard.
The producers mainly use three materials, when crafting their eco-friendly countertops – recycled glass, reclaimed wood and recycled paper. Each of them has their ups and downs, so it’s best before you start looking for the different countertops, get to know the materials we’re dealing with here. To make it easier for you to find what you’re looking for, let’s put the countertops in these three categories.
Wooden countertops that are safe for the environment will be certified by the FSC, and come either from reclaiming the wood that was already used in the past or from responsible harvest. Eco-friendly wooden countertops are just as stylish as their normal counterparts, often times they are even cheaper. Most commonly, such countertops will be in fact cheaper than the ones made from glass, but often more expensive than the ones made from paper. If you don’t burn it, it’s a pretty durable material. These are the best materials for eco wood countertops:
- Butcher block – this material is created by composing a lot of smaller pieces of wood. As such, it’s usually made from reclaimed, recycles or repurposed wood, however, you prefer to call it. The bottom line is – it’s usually wood that was already on the market, so by using it to craft our kitchen countertop, we do not add to the yearly number of harvested trees. Other than for its eco-friendly character, the butcher block is being appreciated for its practical value – it’s usually soft, providing a great surface for cutting your food products. Think about your cutting boards – it’s pretty much the same deal, only thicker and sturdier. It also doesn’t need a lot of maintenance, and even if the cutting marks get a bit too overwhelming, all it takes to refresh it is a bit of sanding and oiling.
- Bamboo – I’m quite sure you’ve already heard about how fast a bamboo tree grows. If not, then let me tell you – really fast. Because of that, we do not really have to be careful with harvesting bamboos, because they grow back in a blink of an eye. Apart from that, the bamboo wood is harder than most of the more ordinary types of wood. Let me just add, that it’s pretty cheap, and you’ve got you a great, lasting and eco-friendly kitchen countertop material. Costs between $25 and $35 per square foot.
- Durapalm – countertops made from durapalm wood are pretty sturdy, as durapalm is similar to oak, and even a bit stronger. It is only the old and nonfruiting palms that are harvested for producing furniture and countertops, so don’t worry about the environment, as the producers take care of seeding new palms while they cut down the old ones.
- Salvaged wood – not only a very stylish and rich material, which is great for crafting kitchen countertops, it is also truly unique. With enough determination, you could find a very specific kind of wood to be salvaged for your kitchen countertop. For example, if you are designing a new kitchen because you moved to a new house, you could potentially get yourself a countertop crafted from the wood salvaged from your previous house. The possibilities are endless, and everything depends on your creativity and determination. The only problem with salvaged wood is the fact that, well, as if any kind of wood – it’s not very tolerant to fire and water, so you have to keep that in mind during your everyday kitchen activities.
Recycled glass is another popular eco-friendly material for countertops. Glass can be recycled nearly endlessly, so it’s a tempting alternative to reclaimed wood. Resistant to heat and water, but susceptible to scratches, so be careful with cutting anything on it. To be sure it’s all good, make sure your glass countertop has CtC certificates. Below, you will find the specific kinds of countertops made from recycled glass:
- Squak mountain stone – a great alternative to quarried stone, because quarrying the stone is not all that cool for the environment around the quarry itself. All in all, the main goal when using the squak stone is replicating the look of a natural stone. However, it’s not stone, even though it feels like one – it’s actually a combination of recycled glass, recycled paper, and cement. The end result of this is a very pretty, stylish material, which possesses all the characteristics of a natural stone – the drawbacks included. Just as any natural stone, it’s porous, and as such requires to be sealed once every two years, at least. Keep that in mind if the squak mountain stone is something you will be going for.
- IceStone – another material that was created to resemble natural stone, while being eco-friendly. Ice stone is created by mixing recycled glass with cement. It looks a bit like alabaster, and again, is porous, so will require sealing. IceStone is certified by CtC.
- Bio-glass – this one is yet another form of recycled glass, but this one looks more like actual glass than a stone. As such, it’s easier to get scratched, so remember to be careful with the knives around it. Apart from that, it’s still a spectacular material for countertops, that’s Cradle to Cradle certified at the same time. Quite expensive, as it costs anywhere between $85 – $115 per square foot.
- Vetrazzo – again, these countertops are being made from recycled glass. About 85 percent of the glass used to create Vetrazzo countertops comes from the recycled glass. It’s a bit cheaper than the IceStone, so if you’re looking for a more budgetary option, this might be the way to go.
This is something new and intriguing. With the newest technologies, recycling paper now allows creating kitchen countertops. It’s pretty cheap too, so we’re sure you will like this alternative to the more popular options. Make sure it has the GreenGuard certificate before you buy it. Below, you will find the available types of paper-made kitchen countertops.
- Paperstone – well, this one is pretty amazing. Chances are, you’ve seen it before but didn’t even recognize it as paper. Of course, it has the certificate of FSC. What exactly is the paperstone? Basically, it’s just postconsumer paper. And before you ask, no, it does not even feel like paper – more like a warm stone. Eco-friendly, stylish, modern – where is the catch? Well, it can only take 350-celsius degrees, so be careful with putting hot pans on top of your countertop – but other than that, it’s a highly recommended material. And inexpensive, too.
- EcoTop – another paper-based material for kitchen countertops, it consists of renewable bamboo fiber, recycled paper, and resin glue. The resin glue used while producing EcoTop is water-based, and as such totally safe for the environment.
Being safe for the environment is not only about the way the material is being produced, but also how long is it able to serve us. These days, there is a common consensus that a countertop that can serve you for a lifetime, is eco-friendly regardless of what it was made from. And that’s why I decided to include one material that’s a bit different than the previous ones, yet it’s hard to find something that can serve you longer than…
- Stainless steel – did you know that stainless steel is mostly made from recycled steel? As such, it can be called an eco-friendly material, because even when you get rid of your stainless steel countertop, chances are it’s gonna get repurposed, to create a new countertop. It’s mainly that longevity and ability to be repurposed that makes stainless steel a material that’s considered to be safe for the environment – and let’s not forget how stylish it is. Unless you try really hard to destroy your steel countertop, it’s also resistant to more or less anything that happens in your ordinary kitchen. The only problem can be water smudges and watermarks.
Below, we will try to estimate the average price for every category. It’s hard to pinpoint the price accurately because plenty depends on where do you live, your local seller’s margin, etc. But we will try nonetheless.
- Recycled glass – the cheapest kinds start at around $40, but can go as high as $120 per square foot for the most expensive types.
- Reclaimed wood – starts around $30 , and can go up to about $85 per square foot, depending on the type and local prices.
- Recycled paper – between $18 and 40$, depending on the type.
- Stainless steel – $45 to $65 per square foot.
Okay, now you should be able to make an informed decision about the material to pick for your countertop, for it to be both as practical as it has to be while being safe for the environment at the same time.
Remember, especially in the kitchen, there is no place for dangerous chemicals and unhealthy materials. Good luck!