Thinking Sustainable Countertops?

Granite Alternatives Offer More Than Just Looks

It would seem that the entire residential construction and real estate industries were built on granite countertops. If a builder wants to woo prospective buyers into his Parade Home, you can bet he or she’s got some flashy granite countertops to show off. And what real estate agent doesn’t salivate over listing a home with exquisite granite vanities? (After all, don’t countertops make the home?)

Okay, before I offend anyone with my sarcasm, I confess that I too was once vulnerable to the visual allure of granite. But that was before I knew how unfriendly the mining of natural stone is to the environment. Before I found out that nearly all granite is imported from overseas. And before I realized that granite has to be sealed (and periodically re-sealed), that it stains easily, and can also crack.

(You learn a lot of disappointing things when you build a green house.)

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame consumers for their love of granite any more than I blame Americans for their love of dessert. We are sensory creatures and there’s no denying the visual appeal of a natural stone countertop. But I do wish that builders, fabricators, and real estate agents put a little more effort into talking to consumers about more sustainable options.

Many more environmentally responsible options do exist. I should know. I’ve been enjoying several in my own home for nearly two years now. We have countertops made from sustainable wood, post-consumer recycled glass, and even cardboard boxes! All of these were made in North America – primarily in the USA—with prices comparable to mid- to high-end granite.

I’ve found each of these countertops to be extremely durable and virtually maintenance-free. I like the fact that when I brag about my countertops (as I am apt to do) I’m bragging about something more substantial than appearance. I’m bragging about sustainability, low-maintenance, and the fact that my choices were kinder to our own domestic economy. Plus, it’s cool to have something different from everybody else.

Consumers can be convinced in the value of the strangest things. A tattered pair of designer jeans…. A big, boxy, gas-guzzling vehicle…. Bedazzled covers for their i-phone covers…. Is it really such a challenge to sell them on a unique, low-maintenance, environmentally superior countertop?

Here’s my point: We just haven’t tried hard enough! Builders, real estate agents, and (yes) consumers are all at fault. The fact is, we’ve all been guilty of wanting instant granitification. With so many other options, I really hope to see that change.

2 Responses »

  1. Trish,

    I am looking into countertops- and had come across a posting of yours that talked about Shetkastone, but now can’t find it again. The company phone number is not working. Do you know if they are still in business?

    thanks for any help you can give,
    Jane

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