Though the firm offers 48 countertops of its own design, adventurous homeowners can create their own, choosing from among 23 glass colors and six sizes of porcelain chips and 25 resin colors. The firm can also match any paint swatch. The firm uses larger transparent glass shards than most countertop manufacturers and this adds character by creating pronounced shadow lines within the countertop slab. The glass mirror shards are big enough to show a fractured reflection of your own face if you bend over low enough. Glass Recycled’s material cost is about $60 per square foot.
Homeowners with budget constraints who want a green countertop might consider Wilson Art’s Laminate. Twenty percent of the “kraft” paper backing used in all its laminates is recycled. The kraft paper constitutes about three-quarters of the material used to make a sheet of plastic laminate.
Because each laminate sheet is only about one-sixteenth of an inch thick, it must be glued to a substrate. This material is usually particle board, which is made with nearly 100 percent recycled wood waste from sawmills or recycled wooden shipping pallets. The installed cost of Wilson Art’s laminate with a particle board substrate runs about $7 to $14 a square foot.
For many years, green builders and architects avoided use of particle board because it emitted unhealthy levels of urea formaldehyde into the air. This situation changed when the California Air Resources Board (CARB) mandated that as of Jan. 1, 2011, all particle board sold there must emit at a level below 0.09 parts per million, a limitation that health experts have sanctioned. However, to stay below this upper limit, manufacturers must produce particle board that emits at a lower average rate; in 2011 it was 0.07 ppm. As of Jan. 1, 2013, the CARB standard will become a federal standard.
If you don’t live in California, can you get the CARB standard product now? It’s widely available, but Tom Julia, who heads the Composite Panel Association (CPA), the organization that certifies that particle boards are CARB compliant, advised homeowners to insist that any particle board used to make their countertop carry this stamp: “CARB Phase #2 compliant, Certified by CPA.”
Katherine Salant has an architecture degree from Harvard. A native Washingtonian, she grew up in Fairfax County and now lives in Ann Arbor, Mich. If you have questions or column ideas, contact her at email@example.com or www.katherinesalant.com.