From Marye on January 2nd, 2008 in Green Remodeling
When you plan your remodeling project, you’re probably already very conscious of green values. Better energy efficiency is probably high on your list, not to mention reducing pollution from toxic gases in the air or miscellaneous waste in the landfills. What may be news is that you now have many options in building and decorative materials that are not only planet-friendly, they’re gorgeous. An added bonus: recycled materials these days are often actually better than new.
As people become increasingly aware of the impact their choices have on the planet, more and more eco-friendly options are emerging. Here are a few of them to give you some ideas.
Recycled glass: community and industrial recycling programs have been quite successful in generating a plentiful supply of reusable glass, and a growing number of manufacturers are coming up with products suitable for many applications. Companies such as Sandhill, Oceanside, and Interstyle, to name just a few, offer a wide range of recycled-glass tiles in a rainbow of colors — they work well for kitchen and bathroom walls, backspashes and countertops, as well as decorative accents.
And there’s more — other manufacturers have become adept at mixing recycled glass with concrete or other binding agents to produce a terrazzo-like material perfect for countertops and even floors. The result is an earth-friendly alternative to granite and marble. Check out Vetrazzo, IceStone, and EnviroGLAS to get some ideas.
Recycled metal: Discarded copper, brass, aluminum and other metals are finding new life in remodeling projects — as sinks and lavatories, often with brilliant colors or gorgeous sculptural details. Vendors including Envirobath, EcoFriendly Flooring, and Eleek have been pushing the envelope in this area, with stunning results.
Recycled wood: As with granite and marble, they’re just not making old-growth wood any more, and the few remaining stands of old-growth timber on the planet are either protected by law or endangered by irresponsible harvesting practices. Or sometimes both.
This is all the more unfortunate because, as any woodcrafter will attest, old-growth wood is far superior to its recently harvested counterparts: it’s more dense and sturdy, has more “character,” and is likely to have fewer knots and other anomalies. Besides, since it’s been aging for decades if not centuries, it’s well seasoned and unlikely to crack or warp. Whether oak, maple, redwood or fir (to name just a few options), older is almost always better.
Luckily for the discerning but conscientious homeowner, a growing number of companies specialize in reclaiming old wood, salvaging it when old buildings (often 19th or early 20th century) are demolished. Others harvest logs (often centuries old) that have been submerged for decades after sinking en route to the sawmill, and mill new lumber from them. Salvaged beams, barn siding and floorboards can be used as is (e.g. in a primitive or rustic theme) or re-milled. The resulting wood offers the best of both worlds — the superior durability and aesthetics of old wood and the custom look that’s just right for your project’s floors, cabinets and more.
Recycled wood can come from your local area or around the world, and in some cases may be the only way you can obtain a particular wood in today’s market. It’s a true win-win: unique beauty that’s easy on your green conscience and leaves the forests in peace.
In addition, some cabinet makers operate small shops that specialize in recycled wood. For example, Green Tea Design builds traditional Asian kitchen cabinets from salvaged hardwoods, and Staples Cabinet Makers re-mill old boards into country cabinets with rustic beauty.