Thinking about green kitchen renovations? Many attractive, environmentally friendly countertops are available.
What makes it ‘green’?
‘Green’ means recycled or sustainable content, low-toxicity binding materials, eco-friendly manufacturing processes (carbon neutral, zero waste), and local production (consuming less energy in transportation). ‘Sustainability’ indicates continued availability without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage. Generally, repurposing material is considered greener than recycling (which requires energy in processing).
Industry-independent organizations approve or certify products meeting specific guidelines. Focussed on indoor air quality, GreenGuard certifies building products with low chemical emissions. Cradle to Cradle endorses long-life products that are safe for people and the planet. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approves wood products from responsibly harvested forests.
Recycled glass is both elegant and heat resistant. Bio-Glass is a 100% glass countertop with a delicate, transparent look; the opaque IceStone has fine glass particles set in pigmented cement. Both are Cradle to Cradle certified. Vetrazzo’s beautiful glass countertops contain 85% recycled glass from curbside recycling programs. Maintenance: Clean up messes quickly to prevent staining; some products require resealing.
Stainless steel typically contains 60 % recycled content and can be recycled over and over again. Its popularity in commercial kitchens relates to durability and easy of cleaning. Maintenance: Frequent wiping of fingerprints and watermarks required.
Recycled Paper bound with water-based resin creates a solid, durable and easy-to-install countertop that resembles limestone or soapstone. 100% post-consumer recycled paper may be combined with recycled glass, reclaimed fly ash, cement, bamboo fibre, and/or pigment. Maintenance: Will not withstand temperatures over 350°F.
Salvaged wood countertops keep materials from the waste stream. Salvaged wood can be purchased at a local salvage supply or can result from renovations within your home. Stunning reclaimed wood countertops are available from manufacturers that use material from old barns, warehouses, commercial buildings, bowling alleys, and wine vats. Maintenance: Water and heat damage wood. Install other surface types near the sink, dishwasher and stove.
Typically composed of smaller pieces of wood, butcher block can make use of reclaimed shipping pallets or deconstructed buildings. Many cooks cut right on this surface. Maintenance: Cuts require sanding. Refinish with a food-grade natural oil.
Concrete countertops with low-impact add-ins (coal fly ash, recycled glass, recycled paper) are a marvellous, green choice when sourced locally or cast in place. Maintenance: Apply penetrating sealers and wax once a month.
Image credit: ConcreteElegance
Bamboo is a rapidly renewable resource that is stronger and harder than most other hardwoods. However, since all commercial bamboo originates in China, significant energy goes into transporting the product to Canada.
Courtesy of EcoBuildingStore.ca
For more information, pricing and availability of these green countertop choices, consult your local service pro.
By Zoë Waller