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
Interesting article. I pretty much liked the idea of recycled aluminum kitchen counters, an alternative to stainless steel countertops. I guess it will be somewhat sleek and nonabsorbent. Recently, I renovated the kitchen cabinets and changed the wall tiles of the kitchen. The countertop restoration was done with Cappuccino colored granite. It looks pretty good. Hence currently there is no chance to use recycled aluminum counters. But one of my friends is constructing a house. I would surely recommend the idea of recycled aluminum kitchen counters to her.
Aluminum is for sure an alternative to steel, though it is a softer metal and would scratch a bit easier, so you'd want to be aware of that and avoid ever cutting on it. Although, that can be said about any counter, even if just to keep your knives sharp. Aluminum would also mean not introducing the formaldehyde that can be found in laminate counters, so they would safeguard air quality as well. Thanks for mentioning that option. Best regards.
The potential for off gassing in Quartz counters was mentioned. Is there any data available that either confirms or disproves this possibillity?
I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.
Nonsense. Adding a recycled material to an engineered composite countertop does not make it green.
The process by which these materials are manufactured is inherently ungreen, requiring enormous amounts of greenhouse--gas-producing energy and petro-chemicals like urea-formaldehyde and phenol-formaldehyde that are about as eco-friendly as acid rain.
At best, these products are "greenwashed", not actually green.
Adding recycled materials to any product and reducing the need for material extraction and relieving some burden on landfills is a sensible move in our opinion from an ecological perspective, we stand by that. There are many counters listed above, all with different materials and manufacturing processes, so it would be great if you could actually form a logical argument by including the particular counter above that got you so steaming mad, and what it is about the manufacturing process that irks you so much, and how you think it can be improved.
None of those to our knowledge have Urea and Phenol Formaldehyde, if they did we would remove it instantly, so again, please let us know which one has it.
Also, please let us know what type of counter you have in your home, I would assume it surpasses all the above in terms of being 'green' (or you would of course not gone off on such a rant) so please let us know so we can feature it. Thanks Jim.
These are impressive, eco-friendly options. I have heard of composite paper kitchen counters, but I'm still quite skeptical about it. After all, the leading material for that countertop is still paper. Various quartz has, time and time again, have proven that, while containing other recycled materials, it's durable.