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April 20, 2014  |  Login
Countertop Materials for a Green Kitchen
By Eric Corey Freed
In recent years, countertops have become a bit of a status symbol for homeowners — granite, for some reason, has become the countertop of choice for high-end builders and, thus, for high-end kitchens. Although granite is both lovely and natural, there are many equally beautiful alternatives.

Granite and Stone

Stone has a natural and timeless quality. There is a misconception that stone is too expensive for the average person, but the truth is that stone comes in a wide range of varieties and prices. Stone also has varying degrees of environmental impact. Marble and granite are mined deep out of the earth, but other stones (such as sandstone, slate, and soapstone) can be locally quarried without the same damage to the earth.

Natural stone is an elegant and durable finish. Unfortunately, stone is nonrenewable (we can’t make more of it), and it requires huge amounts of energy to quarry, finish, transport, and install. The most popular stone types — granite, marble, sandstone, and limestone — must be transported long distances, using large amounts of energy. The impact from quarrying, cutting, and polishing the stone requires even more energy. The dust from the stone cutting is irritating and polluting.

Tip: As an alternative, look for salvaged stone. Your local salvage yard will carry some countertops saved from demolition. Salvaged stone is much less expensive, but your choice of colors will be limited.

Stone is sold in large slabs, not in pieces. When only a part of a slab is used, the remaining pieces are left behind. Every stone and marble yard has what they call a boneyard where these leftovers are placed. These are also cheaper, and you’ll have more variety to choose from.

As long as you don’t need a large amount of the same type of stone, the boneyard is a great place to find stone.

Seal the stone as needed with a low-VOC and water-based sealer, or select stone that doesn’t require sealing.

Many types of stone — especially marble, sandstone, limestone, and slate — are surprisingly soft, and they scratch and absorb stains easily. Granite is stronger and more scratch- and stain-resistant.
Dispose of leftover and discarded stone by giving it to a salvage yard. Stone tiles can be reused or crushed into aggregate for concrete.


Terrazzo is made up of small pieces of marble set into cement and highly polished. Odds are, you’ve walked on a terrazzo floor. They’re common in public buildings — museums, airports, hotels, and so on. When glass is used instead of marble, it’s often called Vetrazzo (from vitreous glass), or glass terrazzo, and it reflects light in the most beautiful way. The result is a surface so beautiful you won’t notice that this particular glass happens to be made from recycled beverage bottles. You can choose the colors of the glass and the cement binder, giving you an endless list of possibilities. more



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