Green countertops are where it gets fun. You can find new products made of discarded soda bottles or wood pulp fused together so densely you’d swear it’s stone, just for starters. These items are all made from recycled and/or renewable goods, with a manufacturing process that has little impact on the environment.
Concrete is expensive and not terribly ecofriendly given the amount of heat and energy needed to produce it. Squak Mountain Stone precast slabs are made of 30 percent traditional cement, while the remaining material is recycled content, including fly ash, paper, and glass. The result looks like soapstone, and comes in five natural colors. If you look closely, you may see letters and words creating subtle visual texture on the smooth surface. Prices start at $47 per square foot.
Plyboo is the trademarked term for the laminated bamboo plywood of the Smith & Fong Company, a trusted source for bamboo that’s been sustainably harvested. The organic aesthetic of a Plyboo butcher block countertop works well in modern, minimal spaces. $610 per 3-by-8-foot piece.
Vetrazzo is a type of terrazzo made from recycled glass and concrete, much of it scavenged from city dwellers’ recycling bins, old blue Skyy Vodka bottles, and traffic lights, to name a few sources. Vetrazzo is durable (about as strong as granite), scratch-resistant, and able to withstand heat up to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Jessica Gelin, a sales manager for Vetrazzo, describes it as “jewelry for the counter.” Prices start at $45 per square foot.
Richlite is a paper-based composite that is stronger than wood, making it a good alternative to stone. “But unlike granite, it’s warm and smooth to the touch,” says Lydia Corser, founder of the green retail shop Eco Interiors, who has it installed in her own home. All of the paper used in Richlite is made from wood pulp derived from FSC-certified forests in North America. $100 per square foot (price includes installation).
Third-generation patternmaker Eric Kaster makes Eleek’s tiles and countertops from 100 percent recycled (and sustainable) aluminum, with at least 50 percent of that coming from postconsumer waste. Finished in a variety of earthy colors, the material doesn’t pick up fingerprints like stainless steel. The best thing about the product is that it’s 100 percent recyclable and reusable. It’s sold in individual tiles or as a continuous piece of metal built to spec. $8 to $50 per tile, or $150 per square foot.
These tiny wood tiles are made from discarded pieces of FSC-certified hardwoods and bamboo left over from furniture manufacturing. They can be used to create mosaics for backsplashes or counters. (Be sure to use a nontoxic, stain-resistant, waterproof grout.) Prices start at $40 per square foot.
Little glass tiles are a popular backsplash material—to go green, look for ones that are made from at least 50 percent recycled material. Oceanside Glasstiles come in every color, shape, texture, and luminosity imaginable and are made from silica sand, an abundant natural resource. Many of the lines also have at least 50 percent recycled content, with many topping out at 86 percent. (They are not, however, made from sea glass, as the name might suggest.) Prices start at $28 per square foot for mosaics and field tile, $10 each for decorative accent tiles.