Kitchen Countertops Earn Green Street Cred

Recycled paper countertops

The green scoop: It’s hard to imagine constructing anything remotely durable that can stand up to the kitchen-bound rigors of water, grease, food, heat and cutting implements, but multiple manufacturers have pulled it off with easy-on-the-eyes recycled paper kitchen countertops. Made with compressed 100% post-consumer, FSC-certified waste paper coated with resins that lack volatile organic compounds, petroleum or formaldehyde, paper countertops are unlikely eco-candidates that look every bit as modern and desirable as traditional alternatives. Positive features: Easily shaped with conventional woodworking tools, affordable at roughly $30 per square foot, available in a diverse color palette and stain and heat resistant. Negative features: It’s paper… in your kitchen. For many, that’s a deal breaker, no matter how green it is.

Available through the following manufacturers: Paper Stone Products, Eco Top Surfaces (they use demolition recycled wood/bamboo fibers and recycled paper bound together with VOC-free water-based resin), Shetka Stone and Rich Lite.

Recycled glass countertops

The green scoop: If you’re fan of natural stone countertops but not quite thrilled with the process by which materials like quartz, granite and marble are stripped from the earth, then this is the eco-solution for you. Glass can take on a utilitarian presence (as in soda bottles and automotive windshields) but also morph just as easily into a gleaming artistic spectacle. In the case of recycled glass countertops, they are surprisingly eye catching, often appearing jewel flecked thanks to the liberal incorporation of finely chopped-up recycled glass obtained from municipal curbside programs as well as post-industrial castasides. Depending on the manufacturer, these stain-, scratch- and scorch-resistant eco-offerings are typically made with post-consumer recycled glass mixed into concrete, porcelain or corn-based resins and topped with a VOC-free sealant. Positive features: Glass… well now we’re talking. It’s renewable, recyclable, highly durable and looks pretty slick in today’s modern kitchens, plus recycling it in a cool new way helps to alleviate the burden on our landfills. Negative features: Yowch — it’s going to cost you. Prices are on par with average granite countertops, which might tempt even the most eager greenie to go for the real deal. Available through the following manufacturers: Urban Slabs, Enviro GLAS, Ice Stone and Eco By Cosentino, among many others!

Recycled plastic countertops

The green scoop: Forget everything that you think you know about plastic and try to keep an open mind for a moment — this is not your grandmother’s laminate countertop we’re talking about. The reality of our world is that while plastic is the demon du jour and an admittedly toxic component pervading our eco-system, we have so much of it languishing in our waste stream that repurposing it in original ways is simply a must. With that being said, companies have managed to create fashionable, modern-looking 100% post-consumer high-density polyethylene working surfaces that even a domestic doyenne like Martha Stewart would find hard to resist. Positive features: 100% raw recycled post-consumer plastic waste (think milk, shampoo and detergent bottles) is incorporated into architectural resin panels, yielding a shimmering final product that is surprisingly light on carbon but heavy on sustainable style (plus it’s chemical/UV resistant and easy to clean). Due to its full-throttle 100% recycled content, construction projects can even score up to 2 LEED credits when this unique material is used. Negative features: It’s hard to break the plastic eco-demon stereotype, not to mention the perception that it will likely succumb to burn/scorch marks, dings and other kitchen mishaps. Available through: 3Form

Or, you could revamp an old but functional countertop

The green scoop: If you’ve got the DIY drive but lack the funds to take your remodeling project to the next level, maybe it’s time to dig deep into your piggy bank — literally. One of the best things you can do for the environment and your wallet is to make the most of what you already have, which in this case can be easily achieved if you have a stash of copper pennies. Give your kitchen countertop a radical facelift by hand paving it with Abraham Lincolns and be the envy of your crazy friends who sadly chose a ho-hum and costly conventional alternative courtesy of the local home improvement warehouse.