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6 Top Eco-Friendly Countertop Materials

6 Top Eco-Friendly Countertop Materials

Use this guide on sustainable countertop materials — including information on cost, durability and maintenance — to find the perfect choice for your home.

Finding the right countertop can be complex. After all, you want something visually appealing and durable, which can be hard enough to pinpoint, but then if sustainability is something important to you, an eco-friendly option that checks all the boxes can seem near impossible.

The good news is that many of the following green options are comparable to traditional countertop materials when it comes to holding up under daily use. As you consider eco-friendly countertop options, take into account where they’re made and how they’re made. Also important are cost, appearance, maintenance requirements, and performance.

Bamboo

Although bamboo is technically a grass, it appears and acts similar to wood. Bamboo makes a great eco-friendly countertop choice because it is a renewable resource that grows rapidly. Available in different grain patterns, bamboo needs to be sealed to protect against staining and water or heat damage. While chips, scratches and other blemishes are inevitable, with bamboo they are often fixed just by sanding and resealing. As for cleaning, use a mild detergent and non-abrasive materials. Bamboo countertops run between $25 and $100 per square foot.

Reclaimed Wood

Recovered from demolished buildings and old barns, reclaimed wood is a great countertop material for a rustic kitchen. Just keep in mind that it must be resealed often since it stains, splits and burns easily. If you opt for an aged look, it’s possible to use the countertop surface as a cutting board, as scratches and discoloration only add to the timeless appearance. Use warm, soapy water to wash the surface and avoid harsh, abrasive chemicals and cleaning items. While reclaimed wood countertop costs vary quite a bit, expect to pay between $30 and $140 per square foot. If you have budget concerns, consider repurposing existing wood you already have to make countertops.

Paper Composite

Did you know that postconsumer paper waste can be fashioned into eco-friendly countertops? It’s true, and becoming more and more popular. Paper composite countertops are made by compressing paper into a solid block, and finishing it with a stiff, natural resin. What results is a solid-surface that is strong and sleek. Paper composite countertops are easy to clean, durable, tolerant to heat, and resistant to chips and nicks. To prevent staining, resealing the surface with mineral oil is required once or twice per year. To clean, simply use a damp cloth or a non-abrasive cleanser to wipe the surface. Do not use dish soap or chemical cleaners. Paper composite countertops generally run between $40 and $75 per square foot.

Recycled Plastic

Many postconsumer plastics can be saved from landfills and used instead to make eco-friendly kitchen countertops. These kitchen work surfaces compare to solid-surfacing, and come in a wide range of colors and textures. Affordable, this type of material is also moisture resistant and long-lasting. However, it does scratch and burn easily, so placing hot cookware or using sharp tools on the surface is not recommended. Because they are typically unaffected by chemicals, recycled plastic countertops can be cleaned with any number of cleansers. They generally cost between $50 and $80 per square foot.

Recycled Glass

Created from a mixture of glass pieces and concrete or porcelain that is cast into slabs, recycled glass countertops have an appearance and durability similar to natural stone. For example, terrazzo is made from 50-95% recycled glass and is quite popular. It comes in a wide variety of colors and is long-lasting — up to several decades. In addition, recycled glass countertops are nonporous, heat resistant and do not require sealing. Unfortunately, it is hard to find and can be as expensive as granite. Expect to shell out between $65 and $140 per square foot.

Stainless Steel

Durable, low-maintenance and containing 45-100% recycled material, stainless steel is a solid choice for a sleek, modern kitchen that is also eco-friendly. The best part? The material can be recycled again and reused if you replace your countertops in the future. Stainless steel is both heat and stain-resistant, however, it scratches easily and shows smudges and fingerprints. You can minimize the latter by opting for a brushed finish. To clean, warm soapy water and a microfiber cloth works well, or you can use a commercial stainless steel cleaner. This type of countertop is quite expensive, running between $80 and $150 per square foot.

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