When you think about transforming your kitchen into an environmentally-friendly room, your mind often goes to the amount of energy wasted powering your garbage disposal system, refrigerator, or microwave oven. However, the kitchen’s counters are often what can make or break your home’s environmental footprint.
That’s right; the decorative slabs atop your cabinets may be beautiful, but depending on what they are made of and how they are installed, they could have a negative impact on the earth.
According to numerous industry professionals, there are five major eco-friendly countertop options leading today’s market.
This option can give your kitchen the old-school look that has just started to make a comeback thanks to its sustainable and stylish design features. The key to this material is its natural simplicity.
Because it can easily be made on location, transportation and factory costs are relatively cheap. Laying a cement surface is such a straightforward process that handy homeowners can do it themselves.
How is it made?
A number of different techniques and mixes can be used to create a concrete eco-friendly countertop. Traditionally, only a few materials are mixed to form the actual product; these materials can be as basic as sand, cement, and rock pieces. For the sake of sustainability, recycled and easily degradable products can be added to the mixture as well. This will not only give the finished product a unique and personalized look, but also give you assurance that once is has served its purpose, it can be disposed of safely with minimal detriment to the environment.
Making the final product is as easy as mixing the desired ingredients and pouring the mixture over a pre-made mold. The mold should be set to coordinate with the size of the cabinetry on which the new eco-friendly countertops will be placed. This mold should have coils and wires for the concrete to harden around and a break-away piece that will serve as a guide for the edges.
The setting process traditionally involves a period of smoothing with a specialized tool called a trough, but keep in mind that if you choose to do the project yourself, the materials are quick-drying, so you need to work fast!
Plain wood can make an eco-friendly countertop to be proud of, as it is made fully of a renewable resource found in nature. Wood has been used for many years in homes because of its versatility and availability. Carpenters are seeing a resurgence of the material in kitchens because of its many environmentally-friendly attributes.
Depending on what type of wood is available, there are a few different styles that can be fashioned using this all-natural material. For example, if logs or larger pieces are obtainable, a beamed or planked pattern can be formed. Similarly, if only smaller pieces are available, a butcher-block design is used, which is perfect for homeowners using recycled wood pallets.
How is it made?
As mentioned previously, the materials for this style of eco-friendly countertops are created using organic wood that is cut and sanded down to fit the size of your cabinets. (Those who are interested in using salvaged wood for a more environmentally-friendly approach are always encouraged to do so.)
Once the main pieces are shaped, it is relatively simple to cut out spaces for sinks and built-in appliances to fit into as the plank sits atop the cabinetry. Lastly, you stain the wood based on your color preferences and seal it to protect it from damage.
When one thinks of eco-friendly countertop materials, laminate does not always come to mind. This is justified, as laminate is not a biodegradable material once discarded. However, this decorative material makes the list because it takes so few ingredients to make and because it is factory-produced, which eliminates further costly environmental elements (i.e. mining, shipping of whole rock).
How is it made?
Many of today’s laminate materials are formed of three parts: wood fibers, paper, and a petroleum-based chemical. These three elements are pressed together using specialized, high-pressure equipment to form the smooth lament surfaces we are accustomed to. Then it’s rolled and delivered to distributors using domestic means, leaving a minimal carbon footprint in comparison with competing materials.
4 & 5. Luna & Terra
The final eco-friendly countertop options are grouped together because they are pre-fashioned, earth friendly, and crafted by the same company. The popular brand is called "Eco" by Consentino, and they have a line of products composed of 75-percent recycled materials, all available for purchase in home improvement stores.
How is it made?
To craft this product, the designers mix recycled ash, porcelain, and shards of mirror and glass into a mostly degradable cork-based mold. The general formula stays consistent for different styles, with only colorants and minor variations to distinguish different designs, which makes these options fantastic for homeowners to check out when updating their kitchens to incorporate unique, eco-friendly countertops.