The most common kitchen counters you will find in homes are traditional laminate countertops. And they certainly live up to the adage ‘you get what you pay for’, as most of them still contain a lot of formaldehyde and they aren’t very durable. Maybe the latest generation of laminate countertops for kitchens & bathrooms merits a second look when building or renovating sustainably for a greener home though, see here.
Laminates are still the most affordable kitchen counters on the market, so if you're going for one, search out brands that have made efforts to improve the products they offer. As consumers wise up in the modern age to urgent environmental issues and the importance of healthy air quality in homes, the market naturally follows suit. So thankfully it is becoming easier all the time to find green building products such as non-toxic and durable laminate countertops.
Here are a few alternative sustainable kitchen counter options that we quite like for green homes with Passive House PHIUS+ certification or LEED v4 certification standards, not just for the look, but also for the material composition, durability & sustainability.
Recycled quartz kitchen counters
The Dekton® counter is a ground-up mix of glass, porcelain and quartz heated to over 1,000 degrees Celsius and compressed underneath 25,000 tons. The final product does not require any resin or sealants. It is non-porous, not affected by UV rays and is very resistant to scratches, heat and stains. It is a great option for both kitchens and bathrooms.
It’s made by Cosentino, carries a 25 year manufacturers' warranty and comes with a variety of looks and colours. You can figure on spending about $150 per square foot installed. To learn more about Eco counters, watch this video of the Cosentino ECO countertop in Ecohome’s Edelweiss House or visit Dekton.
Recycled quartz counter tops are very resistant and sustainable © Dekton
Composite paper kitchen counters
Yeah, we know that’s a hard one to figure at first; paper is not something you think of when looking for durable kitchen counters, but it works. These counters are made of 100% recycled paper.
The binding agents are completely GreenGuard certified and made with a cashew nut resin. The product is very durable and resistant to water and heat. Counters are available in thicknesses ranging from ¼ to 2 inches and come in a variety of colours. The final finish has the look of soapstone but at about a third of the price. They are manufactured in the United States but available in Canada.
Purchase and installation will together run about $80 per square foot, but maybe or a bit lower. It is not recommended to use bleach on this product as it could stain the surface. Visit Paperstone.
Recycled paper counter tops are definitely sustainable but need a higher level of care © Paperstone
Silestone Eco kitchen counters
Silestone Eco countertops offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to similar surfaces available on the market. They are non-porous, as durable as granite, resistant to scratches and heat, and made using between 50 and 75% recycled materials such as porcelain, glass and mirrors. They are manufactured using non-toxic and environmentally-friendly resins that are GreenGuard certified.
Another statistic we like about this is that even 94% of the water used to manufacture Eco counters is reused. The cost will range from $65 to $130 (US) per square foot, installation not included. Visit Silistone.
Silestone Counters are hard wearing, scratch and stain resistant and sustainable © Cosentino
Icestone glass kitchen counters
These recycled glass countertops are made of small pieces of glass suspended in a binder of resin or cement. They are very durable and can contain up to 85% recycled content. Their appearance can be transparent, frosted or totally opaque.
However, these counters must be custom made, which can increase costs. It is advised to use a cutting board and not cut directly on the counter, though they have a slightly rough surface that will help mask any scratches. These counters as well are completely non-toxic. They are manufactured in the United States but available in Canada. Visit IceStone.
Recycled glass countertops are resistant, sustainable and non-toxic © Icestone
Recycled aluminum kitchen counters
This is a great alternative to stainless steel but keeping a modern look. It is comprised of between 88 and 100% recycled content, and often sourced from post-industrial waste. Aluminum is usually less scratch-resistant than stainless steel, but with this one we have heard you won’t see a difference.
The counter is very healthy as it has no VOCs, it is stain resistant, and it is entirely recyclable at the end of life. As an added bonus, you can mold the sink, the countertop and backsplash out of the same material.
Figure on spending between $50 and $120 per square foot, installation included. Visit Alkemi.
Recycled aluminum counter tops are an alternative to stainless steel and are also sustainable © Alkemi