Will you be making some eco-friendly choices this year on Earth Day? Maybe you’re considering a eco-friendly kitchen countertop? Bamboo, recycled paper composites, recycled glass, and stainless steel are all eco-friendly countertop materials, but when choosing which is right for your home, a decision can be difficult. Here is a little background as well as some pros and cons for each type.
Bamboo is often one of the first materials that come to mind when people think of eco-friendly alternatives. It is naturally stronger and harder than most other hardwoods, formaldehyde-free, and naturally bacteria-resistant. Although a rapidly renewable resource, almost all commercial bamboo comes from China, so the energy used for its transportation to the United States is a drawback. It also stains easily and is susceptible to scratches and burning.
Recycled Paper Composite
Paper composite countertops are made of post-consumer recycled paper and other fibers held together by a resin. They are durable, easy to clean, resistant to nicks, somewhat stain-resistant, and heat resistant to 350 degrees. They are harder than wood and a great deal lighter than natural stone or concrete. However, recycled paper composite countertops aren’t scratch-proof, are susceptible to chemical damage (no abrasive cleaners!) and they will need an occasional rubdown with mineral oil, possibly even sanding, to refresh them. Although these countertops come from non-petroleum recycled sources (excluding the resin), they are not recyclable because of the small amount of plastic resin content.
Shards of colorful recycled glass pieces are mixed into a cement, concrete, or resin base creating endless texture and color options. Large shards can create a modern, contemporary look or the glass can be finely ground to resemble a traditional solid surface. Recycled glass countertops are durable, easy to clean, non-porous, and heat- and stain-resistant, but cracks, chips, and breaks can be a problem since they can’t be repaired, only replaced. For durability, choose glass that’s tempered and at least 1 inch thick.
Most stainless steel products are already made from 60% recycled stainless steel and because it can be recycled again and again, this selection has a long life (possibly before and after being your countertop.) The top reasons this is the number one material in commercial kitchens is its durability and cleanliness but it is difficult to keep free of smudges and watermarks.
When considering the best eco-friendly countertop for your kitchen be sure to research each company’s sustainability policy. Find out how the product is sourced, what makes the material a better choice, and if it’s green certified. Look for certifications from groups like LEED, the Forest Stewardship Council, and GREENGUARD. Know that whichever eco-friendly countertop material you choose, you are making every day Earth Day in your home.