If your considering remodeling your kitchen and want to be eco-friendly about it, you aren’t the only one. There are television shows, magazines, websites, and stores devoted to the concept of “green” design. In fact, environmentally friendly remodeling has become so popular that the ideas and materials available to you may start to feel a little recycled. Everything you’re thinking of doing has already been done by a co-worker, neighbor, friend, or family member. Sure, you want to be environmentally responsible, but you also want something different – is that asking too much?
One thing you can do in your kitchen that is sure to impact the entire look and feel of the room is to replace your countertops. Countertops are a centerpiece of any kitchen and a great opportunity to add some “green” to the room. The good news is you can get new countertops while being eco-conscious and unique. Here are four options for green countertops you may not have considered:
Concrete countertops have become pretty popular over the last few years; however, while your neighbor may have a concrete countertop yours can look entirely different. Your concrete countertop can be set apart by:
- Custom colors – concrete countertop mixes can be blended to match just about any color you can image.
- Embedded items – you can embed just about anything, for example seashells, in your concrete countertop.
- Shape – concrete can be molded to just about any shape so you can say goodbye to the traditional rectangular countertop.
Keep in mind that not every concrete countertop is as eco-friendly as the next. To make sure you’re getting a legitimately “green” product ask your fabricator about the following:
- What goes into their concrete mix? Do they replace some of the cement with materials that are byproducts such as fly ash.
- Where do their materials come from? It’s ideal to use locally manufactured materials to cut down on the environmental cost of transportation.
- What is their production process? There are a lot of steps a fabricator can take to help ensure your concrete countertop is as “green” as possible. For instance, ask how they conserve energy or re-use water during the process.
Alkemi is a product that belongs to the family of solid surface materials. However, what sets this product apart is that it is made, in part, from pieces of scrap aluminum. Since Alkemi is a solid surface, it can be molded into a variety of shapes to give your countertop a unique appearance. In addition, the scraps of aluminum are visible within the material adding to its unusual look. When considering Alkemi for your kitchen keep in mind that there are two different types of the product – one is “greener” than the other:
- Alkemi-acrylic – made using scrap aluminum, recycled acrylic, and solid surface waste. This product is certified to have at least 91% recycled content.
- Alkemi-polyester – made using scrap aluminum and virgin polyester resin. This product is certified to have at least 34% recycled content.
Be aware that the colors, finishes, and sheet dimensions differ between these two separate products.
If you are on a budget or simply strongly prefer granite but still want to be environmentally friendly consider using a remnant for your countertop. Visit local fabricators to see what remnants they have to offer. Sometimes large slabs of granite will be intact and sufficient to manufacturer your entire countertop. If not, get creative. Use one color for the main part of your countertops and another for the island. Furthermore, using a remnant gives you the chance to get a material and color that would typically cost a pretty penny dirt cheap. Think of it like thrift store shopping.
Now, you’re probably saying, “But everyone has granite!” Granted, you probably do know a lot of people that have incorporated granite into their kitchen; however, every single slab of granite is unique. Each slab will have its own movement (patterns, swirls, and lines) and shades of colors.
The granite you’ll encounter among the remnants was most likely not produced under “green” conditions; however, remember that being eco-conscious is about reusing what you have. The harm has already been done – all that remains to be seen is if that harm was done for no reason (for the slab to just sit in a remnant yard for a few years) or for the material to be put to good use. Remember, a granite countertop will last you a very long time.
Paper countertops may seem like a horrible idea from both a “green” and a durability standpoint but neither could be further from the truth. This material option has been around for a while, yet it hasn’t quite caught on with many major sources. For instance, when was the last time you saw paper countertops featured on HGTV? If your going for unique, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that no one you know has paper countertops.
If your considering this material for your kitchens shop around as some brands are environmentally friendly than others. Find out from manufacturers:
- What type of the paper they use (recycled or otherwise).
- If the paper they use is recycled, what’s the percentage?
- What type of resins do they use? More specifically, are they petroleum free? Are they formaldehyde free?
- What is the fabrication process and how do they conserve energy during that process?
Remodeling your kitchen can be stressful but it should also be a fun project that allows you to express who you are. If who you are is “green” than that should definitely be reflected. However, the room should also demonstrate your individuality and fit your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to take your time, explore all the materials and options available to you, and think outside the recycle bin.
Article contributed by Alex Webb on behalf of Concepts Cincinnati countertops provider. Alex is an HGTV addict who loves coming up with interesting and unusual design ideas – all the better if they’re green! Follow her on Twitter @alexandriakwebb