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By Arwa Lodhi
Apart from the cabinets, the most important part of your kitchen decor scheme is without a doubt the countertops. These not only define the space, but provide the most practical part of your kitchen; the one where you’ll be preparing food, washing dishes and possibly even eating every day.
It’s therefore important to choose the best countertop you can avoid, but since this is a surface that will often be in contact with food, using a natural surface is a great idea too. There are loads of different options for different budgets, and some choices are more eco-friendly than others, with those made from petrochemicals like Corian and laminate being the least sustainable options. The main thing to keep in mind is to keep the materials local: even the fastest growing of bamboo countertops isn’t all that eco-friendly if it’s flown halfway around the world.
Here are some of the best eco-friendly worktops we’ve found, along with the pros and cons of installing each.
Reasonably priced and readily available, wood countertops remain a very popular choice for homeowners. Wood offers a natural beauty that enhances the decor of any kitchen or bathroom. But there are drawbacks to wood countertops too. For example, it tends to scratch easily – though this can be remedied with some sandpaper and varnish – but it’s also prone to being waterlogged if not treated properly.
Also, any wood looks great, but ensure you’re not choosing an endangered wood like zebrawood or teak for your counter top. A good alternative is bamboo – actually a grass, but it offers a wood-like appearance. Wood is being salvaged and re-purposed for green countertops at a growing rate. One eco-bonus is that most wood countertops are recyclable, so when you decide to renovate the kitchen, keep that in mind.
Stains and finishes can give each countertop a customized appearance. Your options include butcher black, parquet, face grain or end grain planks, panels and other designs.
Pros: Cheaper than the other options. Easy to use and treat. Lots of eco-friendly options available.
Cons: Easily suffers water damage and can get scratched. Not as durable as stone options.
All images: Wardloghome.com
With a sleek, smooth finish and minimalist aesthetic, the trend for concrete countertops has been hot for a while and it’s not cooling off. Thanks to new colourizing and staining techniques, their appeal is even growing, if anything. With the latest eco friendly pigments, you can have nearly any shade you desire, and with the right staining techniques, you can give your countertops the look of granite or other natural stone. There are also texturing techniques you can use to increase the uniqueness and beauty of the finished product: for example, you can embed tile, stone, glass, shells or other materials in the concrete to produce a countertop that makes it more like a work of art.
Another benefit is that concrete stands up very well to the wear and tear of a busy kitchen, won’t scratch and is very heat resistant. The main downside the price: expect to pay around $150 per square foot, or possibly higher if you choose an elaborate design.
Pros: Super chic. Smooth and stylish.
Cons: Needs a high level of maintenance. Must be properly sealed from the beginning and then resealed every 1-3 years, or may stain. Expensive.
All images: lowinfo.com except image 3: Houzz
Chunky slabs of dark stone with thick veins aren’t for everyone, soapstone is an all natural material that ages like wood, with much character and patina. Plus the texture is lovely – it feels silky, like baby powder.
The stone is always highly irregular and gets marks, but this is what makes it so lovely. It’s a great material for a larger kitchen, but given that it’s indigenous to North America, it’s not a practical choice for everyone, geographically speaking.
Pros: Unique, soft, lovely. Durable, and marks won’t matter.
Cons: Only available in North America
To learn more about soapstone, please click here.
All images: Blog.polycor.com
The highly polished, shiny surface of granite lends a touchable quality to the surface that works in both traditional and modern interiors. What may look like straight black from far off turns out to be black and grey opalescent mega crystals nestled within. This is a natural stone that doesn’t so much show off as it reveals itself. With depth and interior movement, granite has a unique visual texture that interacts with your eye as you see it from different angles.
All granites polish up well, and it’s a highly durable stone that withstands most stains and trauma. That being said, it does need to be treated to avoid acidic stains.
Pros: Seriously beautiful. Little crystals add a unique touch. Durable.
Cons: Must be treated or it will stain. Is mined, so should be locally sourced at least.
All images: Blog.polycor.com
Since the time of the Romans (and possibly even earlier), marble worktops have been popular. Carrara marble is the most common type, but all forms of this stone simply scream ‘quality’. It definitely brings a touch of elegance to any kitchen or bathroom, and isn’t as shiny as granite.
Pros: A durable, beautiful, natural material that really does look stunning. It’s such a common material that it can be found naturally in most countries, and there’s also quite a lot of old, existing material you can upcycle into your kitchen.
Cons: According to the Life in Grace Blog, whose gorgeous kitchen is pictured in the first two pics below, marble does stain – but it’s worth it, and the stains are only notable in certain lights
If your kitchen and living room feel sapped of style and you want to redecorate in a seriously sustainable way, consider using recycled glass countertops.
Made with the same fragments of material used in Vetrazzo recycled glass countertops, the knobs and pulls come in an array of colours and finishes. For example, Vetrazzo, a Polycor company, recycles U.S. sourced architectural glass, Skyy vodka bottles, and even the humble green wine bottle and amber beer bottle to make hand crafted countertop slabs. The glass fragments are blended in a wide variety of bespoke colour combinations. To ensure you get the best match for your decor scheme, you should consider your favourite aspects of your current space and observe their hues: do you want to pick up the bright blue shade of a beloved piece of art? Or establish a connection between the kitchen and tones of other rooms in the house? With recycled glass, any colour combos are possible, and these countertops are so durable, no sealant is necessary.
Pros: Super eco friendly, comes in a wide variety of colours. Durable. Won’t stain.
Cons: Can crack or break with extreme pressure.
All images: Blog.polycor.com