Eco-Friendly Countertops: Finding the Perfect Surface

Looking for countertops made from sustainable materials? A multitude of options give good reason to cheer.

| March/April 2009

Eco-friendly countertop options are numerous—and every bit as functional, durable and aesthetically pleasing as the old standbys. Healthier for the home and for the earth, these surfaces are often made from recycled content or manufacturing byproducts previously considered waste.

Sorghum stalks

Sorghum is a grass used primarily for food products. In the past, sorghum stalks were burned after the seeds were removed. Today, manufacturers compress the stalks with a nontoxic adhesive, resulting in a unique striped effect. The surface comes in only one color, but it can be stained.

Cost: $$
Pros: attractive; easy to care for; durable; reclaimed material; wood substitute
Cons: shrinks and swells when wet; requires expert installation, sealing and regular resealing; available in only one color (but can be stained)  

Sunflower seed hulls

The hard, thick shells of sunflower seeds—often removed in the factory and thrown in the trash—are processed with a nontoxic adhesive for a countertop that resembles granite.

Cost: $$$
Pros: attractive; easy to care for; durable; granite look; reclaimed material; wood substitute
Cons: shrinks and swells when wet; requires expert installation, sealing and regular resealing; limited colors


After the edible portion is harvested, wheat stalks are mixed with a nontoxic adhesive and pressed into boards. A more attractive alternative to medium density fiberboard, wheatboard is more fragile than other post-agricultural products and must be sealed correctly so it doesn’t swell, shrink or stain. Its color range is limited, and the cost is generally about 10 to 20 percent above a traditional high-end surface such as granite.

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