10 Green Countertops

Laminate can be eco-friendly if you buy one with a high percentage of recycled plastics and paper. Hemera/Thinkstock

Laminate isn't necessarily an environmentalist's first choice. Here's why: To make a laminate countertop, paper that has been saturated with a resin is compressed at very high temperatures. Next, it is glued to a backing -- usually particleboard or plywood -- and then glued to a cabinet box. Unfortunately, all of that glue and resin can be bad for the environment, not to mention the number of trees that have to be cut down and processed to get the amount of paper required [source: U.S. Building Council's Green Home Guide].

So, how can you green it up? First, you can use a high percentage of recycled plastics and recycled paper to make up the surface. Additionally, you can obtain the paper from forests that have sustainable management guidelines. (They don't wipe out the forests when they harvest the wood.) For the glues, you want to use something that is nontoxic and has low- or no-VOC content. Or, use mechanical fasteners and omit the glue process entirely.

One thing to note: Laminate countertops cannot be recycled, so they will eventually end up in a landfill. However, laminate does offer a big cost advantage over other countertops, though it does get easily marred by heat. If it's an option you're considering, it's good to know how to do it green.