Whether you’re remodeling or buying a home it’s helpful to understand what counter-tops are green and why. There are numerous choices when it comes to counter-tops, I’ll cover the more popular materials.
The environmental impact of this counter-top depends on the method to grow, harvest and process the counter-tops. Look for wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, reclaimed wood, or non-commercial regional species. As a renewable natural material Butcher Block counter-tops can be considered a green choice and because small nicks and scratches can be sanded out, it can be considered durable. However, the counter-tops can be scorched by hot cookware and as a porous surface they do require sealing and periodic treatments. Lastly, because wood is prone to water damage, these counter-tops are not recommended near dishwashers and sinks.
An engineered product that uses 80% post consumer recycled content such as glass and mirrors. Locally sourced and bound together with a low-carbon cement it’s a common feature in a certified green home.
Probably the most debated material in the green circles. As a durable product, it can last for generations provided future generations keep it around. Cement production is energy intensive; approximately one ton of greenhouse gas are released for every ton of cement produced. Cement can incorporate recycled materials and it tolerates hot cookware. It too is porous and requires sealing and periodic treatments. Many concrete sealers surface applied stains are toxic and additional care should be used in choosing products to ensure they are approved for eating surfaces. Also because cement is heavy, cabinet reinforcement may be necessary.
As with butcher block the first question with natural stone is how and where was it quarried. If you can find salvaged material you may save on the cost of the material and stay true to the goal of being green. Natural stone is also porous and as mentioned with above with concrete and butcher block, non-toxic sealing and periodic treatments are necessary. It’s can be very difficult to repair staining, chipping and any other damage that might occur.
Quartz crystals, ground quartz, pigments and polyester resin are combined and molded to create a dense slab that resembles granite. The colors available are vast and are often easier to compliment other design elements due to consistency that often times is not available in natural stone. it’s a very durable product that it resists staining and scratching. It also tolerates hot cookware. Engineered stone also is very low maintenance and does not require sealing and maintenance. Engineered stone is made from non-renewable sources.
The production of stainless steel is energy intensive and involves Chromium so there is concern with the pollution caused by the production. However, it is reusable and recyclable. As a hygienic product, it’s one of the most popular products for commercial food production facilities. Look for salvage at restaurant and metal surplus companies.
Also sometimes referred to by the brand name Corian®, sold surface counter-tops are a mix of fillers and resins. Resins are either polyester or acrylic, both of which are derived from oil and natural gas products. The filler can often be a form of bauxite, the mining of bauxite is considered environmentally damaging. It is easy to clean and small nicks and scratches can be sanded out. It does stain and scorch so care must be used around this product.