These days even the smallest purchases require consumers to weigh the environmental impact of the product, from light bulbs to shampoo.
And while sometimes the “green” movement feels more like a marketing ploy than an actual attempt at improving the life expectancy, considering sustainability issues when planning large purchases is expected — and admired — in today’s society.
When it comes to selecting materials for countertops in your kitchen or bathroom, considering the environmental impact of those renovations is essential.
The first step for any remodeler is to select a base material that’s environmentally friendly.
One solid bet is quartz, if for no other reason than that it’s so readily available. Quartz is one of the most durable and abundant materials — silica or silicon dioxide. In fact, about 12 percent of the earth’s crust is made up of it.
Similarly, Caeserstone is another popular chose for eco-friendly remodelers.
Another way to cut the environmental impact is to use material that’s already been purchased and used for another job. Remnant pieces are a great way to get the material you want while minimizing the carbon footprint of getting it.
Remnants are great for smaller projects where you need less material to finish the job.
Granite countertops, while still quite popular among home buyers, has a bit more of a tarnished reputation when it comes to sustainability.
One major reason granite is not as popular in environmental circles is the concern that granite can release dangerous levels or radon or other substances that emit radiation.
While this concern is worth investigating, most sources (including the Environmental Protection Agency) say the risk of countertops containing high enough levels of radon to harm people or the environment is relatively low.
Some materials used in granite countertops also come from faraway places where mining for it can have a negative impact. Transporting these far-off materials can also increase granite’s carbon footprint.
But another key component of the green movement is that products or materials last a long time — they’re sustainable, in other words. For home remodelers interested in longevity, granite can be a very sustainable choice — the material is durable and lasts a long time. What’s more, it’s stayed popular for decades, maintaining its resale value year after year.
For renovators interested in keeping their updated countertops in good shape for a long time to come, granite is still a good option. (Though, it should be noted, quartz is nearly as durable and long-lasting without some of the previously mentioned environmental concerns).
Once you’ve selected a material that fits your needs and it’s been installed, your environmental concerns should shift to maintenance and upkeep of the countertop.
Always check with a countertop expert before using any unapproved cleaning substances on your countertops. But here’s one trick many people are using to make cleaning more sustainable: Use vinegar instead of another all-purpose cleaner. It’s often just as effective and it’s natural, eliminating many of the negative environmental impacts of other products. But make sure you consult an expert before using vinegar with granite countertops.
Myles Albert owns an interior design and contracting company named Interior Excellence. Interior Excellence offers customized, affordable bathroom and basement renovation in NJ.