While countertops make up only a small portion of a home’s surfaces, the options and issues to consider are great. Add to this a desire to be green and the selection process can seem overly complicated. That is why I have chosen to write about several popular options and to highlight what makes them greener choices.
Wood will last for decades and can be repaired with mild sanding. To finish wood, simply leave it unfinished or sealed using natural oils. Additionally, it is best to choose wood from regional sources to cut down on the embodied energy added by transportation. For it to be a green choice, FSC certification is necessary. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council and is the most green of the numerous wood certification standards.
Stainless steel countertops are exceptionally durable and long lasting. They are non-porous and can be easily kept clean using mild soap and water, which explains the dominance of stainless steel in commercial kitchens. When high-recycled content is available, long-lived stainless steel can be a green choice. Any time a product contains recycled content it helps to ease the burden on limited virgin resources and keeps materials from unnecessarily going to a landfill.
In recent years a new class of solid surface countertop has become available. Made from recycled paper and petroleum-free, phenolic resin, it has the appearance of slate or soapstone with its dark rich colors and heft. It is heat resistant and can be sanded smooth if it becomes damaged. A popular brand, Paperstone, is manufactured in nearby Washington State making its embodied energy low. Embodied energy is a term that refers to all the energy used to create and transport a product from its origins as raw materials to the end user.
Hopefully this article has helped to illuminate some of the issues around selecting green countertops. When it comes time to design and build your kitchen, give the Mac-Bo team a call. We would love to help you.