Video /
Nov 4, 2019

5 Eco-Friendly Countertops That Add Beauty With a Sustainable Flair

Experts from Aamodt/Plumb reveal which materials make the best eco-friendly countertops

Architect Mette Aamodt and interiors associate Sarah Lueck tell the truth about popular countertops offerings and share which materials are their favorites.

The five countertops they recommend for a sustainably sourced kitchen, include wood, stainless steel, U.S. sourced stone, American soapstone, and porcelain slab.

“[Wood] is the countertop material of choice in Scandinavia,” says Aamodt, a founding principal of Aamodt/Plumb and who was born in Norway. “ In every home I went into in Norway this summer, [they] had wood countertops.”

Watch the video to find out more about Aamodt/Plumb’s eco-friendly countertop picks.

Transcript: 

Hey folks welcome to the Aamodt / Plumb YouTube channel we are starting a new
series on slow humps where we give you tips and advice for creating a home that
is good clean and fair my name is Mette Aamodt I am co-founder of
Aamodt / Plumb Architecture Interiors and Construction and I will be your host and
I'm here today with Sarah Lueck who is our interiors associate at Aamodt / Plumb and
she's in charge of all things interior selections and materials today
we're going to talk about countertop materials when planning a new kitchen or
bathroom countertops are one of the most important decisions there are lots of
things to consider when choosing a countertop like durability cost and
sanitation if you're designing a slow home that is good clean and fair you're
gonna want to consider the materials Beauty sustainability and if it was
sourced ethically let's delve into some of those issues with Sarah so Sarah what
are some of the most popular countertop materials that you find in the showroom
and the showroom I see a lot of quartz composite which is an engineered stone
there's also a lot of imported natural stone and there's a lot of classic
laminate yeah why are these so popular for the
engineered quartz it's really about easy care it's super easy to use it's not
going to show any scratches or stains it's not gonna chip so people love that
they also love the natural stones because they're beautiful it becomes you
know really gorgeous element in your kitchen so they'll pay a lot of money
for those for the plastic laminates it's also an easy care surface at a much
lower price point do any of these options these typical options fit into
our Slow Homes category of beautiful ethical and eco-friendly unfortunately
not the plastic laminate is plastic you know it's formaldehyde based its resin
it's particle board on your knee it's horrible so you know I know it's cheap
but you know we've got some other options that we'll talk about later that
are gonna be better while still being affordable and
it is great anything else engineered stone unfortunately it's kind of the
same story you know engineered and you know the quartz it sounds like a real
stone but what really is happening there is a plastic matrix that those little
pieces of quartz are in is horrible it really renders the stone useless in
terms of ever being able to return those materials back to the earth it can also
come off you know when you're cooking and cutting in the material oh I didn't
know that yeah it's it's no good I know it looks beautiful like stone it
performs really well but those issues are really not worth the upside to that
material yeah so important stone raises a lot of questions for us
ethical labor practices your traceable supply chain are things we just don't
know from here and a lot of the stone that we see are coming from Brazil and
India and I know that Brazil has had a lot of issues with forced labor and
other sectors in particular the timber sector I haven't heard anything
specifically about stone quarries in Brazil but if you've heard of anything
please put it in the comments down below so we can spread that information India
on the other hand who produces over half the world's granite has been frequently
cited for abuses in their granite quarries for abuses related to forced
labor child labour and unsafe working conditions and I'm gonna put a link to a
study down below on that one and I'm also gonna put up a chart that shows
goods most commonly produced with forced labor and child labor and the top of the
list is India and Brazil and I'm gonna circle stone and timber that we
referenced earlier with imported natural stone we also have some environmental
questions you know they're strip mining there's issues with chemicals use
getting leached into the water table there's the question of
you know the carbon footprint it takes to get that stone to the US so those are
things that just get factored into our concerns over these important natural
stone products well that's depressing is there anything we can do about this
certainly don't buy granite from India or timber from Brazil and remember that
every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world that you want to live in
so for our audience is their showroom you can go to where they can find
countertop materials that are ethical eco-friendly and beautiful not really
but we put that list together ourselves that we can show you the first material
is wood butcher block this is the countertop material of choice in
Scandinavia in every home I went into in Norway this summer had wood countertops
it's probably the one from Ikea that we'll link below which is a great
durable budget-friendly option this image is of a typical Norwegian kitchen
and it's from Norwegian bloggers Lil Teresa linked down below as well Sara
why do we like butcher block so much well it's a renewable resource and
especially if you get FSC certified wood as a source that means it's coming from
a forest that sustainably managed so that's really great it's also an
affordable option it's very durable and it even has anti microbial properties so
it's kind of an anti - oh that reminds me there's even a study that proves that
bacteria live longer on plastic cutting boards compared to wood cutting boards
you can find that link down below I'm gonna put it there for you to read so
what are the cons what are the downsides of using this a couple of the cons are
you know we want to avoid rot so using a drop-in sink is the way to go if you're
gonna have wood around your sink area and then maintenance is just oiling or
waxing it every so often to keep the surface consistent
the next option is stainless steel we love stainless steel it's an easy care
material it's not going to stain or etch or crack the way a stone would it's easy
to clean it's heat-resistant you can put a hot
pot directly on the surface you can make any the customizable shapes so you can
actually have a custom island you can have an integrated sink made out of
stainless steel in an iron so it's a continuous surface which is really cool
it's recyclable so you know at the end of its lifecycle it can return back to
stainless steel in another way which is great it's also a low emission product
to manufacture so those are all good things now the cons are you know it's a
high embodied energy material to manufacture it's also hard to trace the
raw materials to know you know what the conditions are where it's coming from
it can also be hard to track the ethical labor practices some of the
off-the-shelf items the stainless steel is that something you can buy those
countertops ready to go in the showroom usually not if you need it to be custom
to your kitchen if there's a custom product you'll be working with a
manufacturer actually this sample comes from a company and we'll give you the
link to that that does custom stainless steel countertops and they will ship to
anywhere in the country so that's great there are also off-the-shelf products
that you can buy and you know a lot of people will get them from the
Restaurant Supply stores - oh right - and those are actually a really affordable
way of getting or host a nursery however your kitchen cool next on our list is US
sourced stone we love stone because it is a natural material that is beautiful
durable and will last forever our preference is for US sourced stone
because it's local and it creates manufacturing jobs in the US it also
limits the amount of fossil fuel dependent transport needed for the raw
material the Natural Stone Council has created a third-party certification akin
to FSC certification for wood that ensures that manufacturers with this
seal are producing stone in an eco-friendly and ethical way so here are
a few of our favorites this is Danby marble from Vermont and Sarah what's
cool about this one and what we love Danby marble because it comes from one
of the last US marble quarries it also has a wide degree veining variation in
color so you can get everything from something that looks like a Carrara or
Calacatta to something that's really unique and moody and it's own look and
it's also a really traditional countertop material that's been used for
hundreds of years so we love that and baker's really prefer it for baking
because it stays very cool now there are some downsides to marble and what are
those so the downside to Danby marble really any marble is that it can stain
an edge and the way that people work around this is to seal the stone and we
generally try to avoid that at all because what that's doing is introducing
a layer of plastic to the top of the countertop we prefer to think of the
stone as a living surface and you know it's going to change in patina with time
and use and we find that to be really beautiful the next sample is soapstone
the American soapstone comes from the alberene quarry in Virginia and it's a
beautiful dark gray black stone it's virtually non-porous which is great it
means that it's very hard anti scratch antimicrobial you can put a hot pot
directly on the surface won't do a thing historically these stones were used in
laboratories and over the years homeowners have realized that those
properties work really well in their kitchens yeah and actually this quarry
was recently reopened due to an increased demand for soapstone because
currently the only other place soapstone comes from is Brazil okay so are there
any cons with soapstone just very few it is a more expensive stone than some
other options out there and it can also typically only be found in smaller slab
sizes which means you're going to have more seeds in another material that we
are really liking right now is a porcelain slab so this is a porcelain
clay body it's fired to very high temperatures which makes it an extremely
strong durable material they're produced in large slabs like stones so they are
cut and installed just like a stone slab would and in your kitchen it is a
virtually non-porous material it will not etch or stain you can put a hot pot
directly on it as well it has a lot of very believable fading options out there
so in a lot of ways it's very similar to a quartz composite without any of the
downsides of a quartz you know involving additive plastics oh that's great yeah
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah and unfortunately a downside is that it is a
relatively new product to the US and it's also a manufactured product so
things to look out for if you're looking at a porcelain slab you want to pay
attention to who's making it have they been doing it for a while what are their
processes it's gonna take some digging to make sure that their product is that
going to be as robust as they're claiming currently we like a product
called Laminam and it's an Italian company we're hoping to find a US-based
manufacturer that's doing similar work now that we've shown you five beautiful
ethical and eco-friendly countertop materials you tell us which one would
you choose for your Slow Home put your answer in the comment section down below
Sarah which one would you pick? uh I think it would go with the mix the wood
and the stainless I like the juxtaposition one is very soft and warm
and one is sleek and cool wait wait wait okay
here we go yep and I think they work really well together they do I have
always had my heart set on soapstone and so if money were no object
this would personally be the one that I choose I like the fact that you can do
experiments on it food experiments or chemistry experiments just like in high
school and I like the fact that it changes and patinas over time which I
find to be very beautiful in a slow way
Annie Cebulski

Annie Cebulski is the associate editor of PRODUCTS.

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