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Greener Choices Home > Guide to greener kitchens: counters 8/11

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Guide to greener kitchens: countertops 8/11
(This article is adapted from ConsumerReports.org.)

Intro | Refrigerators | Dishwashers | Cooktops and ranges
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Recycled countertops and granite

Along with the usual granite and laminate, options for countertops now include bamboo, recycled glass, and versions made of shredded paper from certified managed forests. But even those "greener" options aren't necessarily as green as they seem: One paper product we checked included petroleum-based resin.

Rule of thumb: See how much recycled content a countertop contains (more is better), whether it's made from renewable resources, and how far it traveled from the manufacturer to your kitchen. Another option is to scout home salvage yards for stone or wood countertops that can be refinished or re-cut to suit your space. Habitat for Humanity sells reusable and surplus building materials and furniture in its ReStores.

Thinking about granite? Be aware that some granite countertops can emit radon—an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas linked to an increased incidence of lung cancer. While the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that radon from most types of granite used in countertops usually isn't a major concern, EPA advises precautions if levels are 4 picocuries per liter ( pCi/L) or higher. (EPA also notes that radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced.)

One way to find out is with a radon testing kit. Use two kits, one near the countertop and the other in your home's basement or lowest useable level. If either picks up a radon level of 2 to 4 picocuries per liter or more, call a pro for further testing. But if the kits test at about the same level or the one near the countertop is lower, the problem is probably in your home, rather than the countertop.

Consumer Reports’ countertop buying guide includes information about more than 15 materials that emerged from a gauntlet tests with stains, abrasions, and other kitchen abuse. Watch the video.

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