Regular readers know that I'm not a fan of modern architecture, but that I love modern materials - especially those that aren't visibly avant-garde and can work in old homes just as well as new. That is, green materials - not just greenwashed products, but truly enviro-neutral or -friendly materials. One of my pet peeves is building materials that are recycled or recyclable - one or the other - but not both; many of these materials are lauded in the popular press for being "ecological," but aren't really.
Joel Klippert, a young man living just outside of Seattle, has really turned this specific market around. With a little help from some very talented research chemists and materials scientists, he's created the very first recycled, renewable and fully-recyclable countertop material. EcoTop, a successor to his extremely successful PaperStone product, is 50% pulped bamboo paper fiber and 50% recycled wood - sometimes called "urban timber," the structural wood salvaged from demolished buildings. He's worked for years to find a non-petroleum resin that was UV resistant, so that he could avoid using only dark colors (the resin used in earlier materials had to be dark to avoid the yellowish cast that would develop over years of sun exposure). Now that he's found that and reliable sources for his two structural ingredients, EcoTop can hit the market - in a range of colors ranging from white to black, with an enormous range of shades of green, tan, red, brown and gray in between. In fact, Joel says he can match any PMS (Pantone Matching System) shade that a client can specify, if the order is large enough.
EcoTop is not only a beautiful, extremely durable and truly green material - right at home in any kitchen or bath, new or old - it's also really affordable and easy to install, competitive with natural stone and significantly less expensive than concrete installations. If anything, I think that materials like this are even more apropos in an Arts & Crafts home than stone or tile: their makers take their responsibility to the outside environment just as seriously as their responsibility to the inside of your home, something that is much more in line with the tenets of the movement than nonrecyclable materials which, no matter how green their production process, end up filling a landfill when you (or, in the case of something like EcoTop, which will last generations, when some far off future owners of your home) are done with them.
Note that this material is also available as an exterior cladding for large residential and commercial / industrial applications.