Recently I had a Realtor into my house to talk about what kinds of changes we’d need to make if we wanted to sell it. Our house was built in the ’50s and it has all original just about everything: Wood floors, plumbing, electrical, and kitchen and bathroom tile. My husband and I happen to love the slightly funky green tiles in the shower and yellow tile countertops with red accents in our kitchen. But I braced myself for the dreaded and expected suggestion to redo the kitchen and put in granite countertops.
I am sorry, but what is the deal with granite countertops? Why is everyone so ga-ga over them? Personally, I don’t think they are particularly attractive. I can understand the allure of countertops without grout, which is hard to keep clean. But is no one but me concerned about the fact that granite is a completely NON-renewable resource? Do you know what that means? It means we take it from the Earth and when it’s gone, it’s gone. No more.
The way I figure it, mining of granite so that your kitchen counters can look just like everyone else’s is a blight on the environment. Most of it is quarried from an open-pit mine, which then just becomes an open pit that is often used as a landfill. Nice, right? Plus there’s the issue of how far the granite has to travel; some of the mines are in desert areas of the United States, but others are in Egypt and India. That’s a long way to travel, and that’s so not green.
I like to watch HGTV, and invariably in every episode of “House Hunters” you’ll see someone running their hands over the kitchen counters and saying “ooh! granite.” On “My House is Worth What?” there is always a shot of granite countertops and a huge red arrow, indicating that this means their house is worth more money! I recently saw an episode of “Spice Up My Kitchen” that featured a couple who wanted a greener kitchen, and while thankfully they did not use granite countertops, they tore down all the cabinets and replaced them! Hello? What’s green about that? Haven’t they ever heard of a coat of paint and some new hardware? It did wonders for our kitchen.
Anyway, don’t get me started about people demolishing perfectly good kitchens and bathrooms, and dumping the results in our landfills.
The point is, maybe granite countertops aren’t the scourge on our planet I am making them out to be. But if you need new countertops, or just want them, and are going for the “natural” look, there are tons of eco-alternatives to granite that are very attractive (some even look similar to granite) and grout-free. I found this nice article on Sunset.com with five green solutions for kitchen updates, from recycled glass, aluminum, and paper to end-grain bamboo.
I find the bamboo and recycled glass options particularly pretty. I will have to keep them in mind if we ever decide to trade in our ’50s tile. (Our realtor actually suggested we keep it, which was good news for us.) As far as I am concerned, these options all rock. Granite? Not so much.