Green Counter Culture


If you attended the Greenbuild conference in Chicago last November, you would have been hard pressed to find a green cabinet manufacturer among the exhibitors – but you couldn’t turn around without bumping into a new type of green countertop. They nearly outnumbered the waterless urinals. Over the past couple of decades, countertops have evolved from tried-and-true laminate to bold new materials and colors of every taste and budget. It’s not surprising to see the creativity of new countertops go hand-in-hand with the emergence of green products. Below are several types of green countertops, from least expensive to most. Feel free to give any feedback you have on any of these products.

Laminate – Easily the least expensive green countertop, laminate countertops made with recycled wood particle board (like SkyBlend) and non-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) adhesives are ideal for building projects that are seeking green certification at the lowest cost. It may take a while to track down a local fabricator offering green laminate countertops, but they shouldn’t cost more than a few dollars more a square foot than regular laminate tops.

Stainless Steel – Made from one of the most recycled materials, stainless steel objects today consist of, on average, 60% recycled material. If the particle board or MDF substrate is made from recycled material and glued with a non-VOC adhesive, a stainless steel countertop can be an inexpensive green option.

Recycled Paper – Manufactured from recycled paper, countertops like Richlite and PaperStone are durable and give off low to no VOCs. PaperStone, which Starbucks has been using both as a counter and as a rainscreen, offers colors in both 50% and 100% post-consumer recycled paper. EcoTop is a new paper based countertop from Joel Klippert, one of the innovators of PaperStone.

Greenguard Certified – Some countertops that may not be made up of recycled materials can be considered green because they emit low to no harmful emissions. Many solid surface countertops, like Silestone, Cambria, and Corian, are Greenguard certified. Greenguard, which certifies many types of products, is to emissions what ENERGY STAR is to energy usage.

Terrazzo – Where art meets sustainability. Easily some of the most beautiful countertops available, terrazzo is a concrete based countertop highlighted with chips of material, usually glass, to give it a marble-like look. IceStone and Vetrazzo are both stunning recycled glass and concrete countertops. EnviroGLAS offers EnvirSLAB, a countertop made of recycled glass and porcelain in an epoxy resin. IceStone has been awarded the prestigious Cradle to Cradle Certification for their environmental efforts at every stage of production.

Wood – Craft-Art offers wood countertops made from either Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood or reclaimed wood. They can be butcher block, stained wood, or a beautiful distressed rustic look.

It won’t be long until house listings start to include the phrases “IceStone countertops” or “Craft-Art countertops” instead of the usual “granite countertops.”

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