Environmentally Friendly Backsplash Ideas
Adding a backsplash to your kitchen and bathroom, especially a green backsplash, is an excellent way to add a functional, eco friendly element to your home that will also prevent damage to your kitchen and bathroom walls and surfaces from water, spills and stains.
There are several sexy options available for green and sustainable kitchen and bathroom backsplash ideas on the market today and we will go through some of the most practical that will help you make a decision that is both green and beautiful.
Recycled Glass Tiles for backsplashes
Recycled glass tiles are considered quite sustainable as they are made up of mixture of post consumer and industrial glass waste. The composition of these glass tiles can range from 50% to 100% so it is important to ask your supplier for exact content.
Usually there is little to no colorants or oxides in recycled glass tiles and many tile manufacturers will use the original colors of the pre recycled glass in the design of the tiles. Recycled glass tiles can come in a variety of colors and styles and many are handmade resulting in occasional size variations. If this is the case, be sure to select from a specific design collection as shapes, sizes and colors can change quickly. Expect some color variations.
The down side to using recycled glass tiles of any kind is of course the thin sets, acrylic bonding agents and chemicals inherent with the installation of these tiles for your kitchen backsplash. Try and use un sanded, water based grouts and silicone binders to reduce VOC emissions.
To reduce the footprint associated with these products try and find suppliers with 50 miles of your location and who manages their construction waste properly. The energy used to make recycled glass tiles varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but generally the sintering process is much less energy driven than the double fire process for regular ceramic tiles
Recycled Ceramic Tiles for backsplashes
Another excellent option a backsplash for kitchen and bathroom is to use recycled ceramic tiles. The way in which these ceramic tiles are made varies with each tile manufacturing company. For the most part these tiles are required to be made with certain percentages of pre-consumer and post-consumer waste products.
Regulatory agencies and organizations such as the SCS ultimately decide whether or not these tiles fulfill the necessary recycled requirements so look for certification or talk to your dealer about what tiles are available.
Recycled Ceramic tiles are often a combination of unwanted glass, stone, dirt, dust and even plastic. Many tile backsplash manufactures will attempt to use their own production waste as well as waste from relatively close sources, ideally within 350 miles of the plant so as to not further contribute to energy consumption due to the collection and transportation of these required elements. These waste products are then mixed and processed to produce a refined powder which can then be used to create new recycled ceramic tile!
One of the draw backs to recycled ceramic tiles is the energy used in the firing process. This can be alleviated some depending on the glass content of each tile.
Recycled Aluminum for Backsplashes
Recycled aluminum is relatively a new backsplash idea but there are manufacturers who are using post industrial and consumer aluminum shavings and scraps to form beautiful green tiles and solid surfaces.
The recycled aluminum tiles and are manufactured from between 80% to 85% post consumer and industrial aluminum materials. Theses eco tiles can be installed on most substrates including plywood, rock board or a tile backer. It is recommended to use a low emitting VOC option as a setting and adhesive material.
Aluminum tiles will over time expand and contract with heating and cooling so it is recommended to use a color infused silicone grout to accommodate for the expansion and contraction of the tiles. Another great option to use if you are interested in recycled aluminum is using recycled aluminum and Polyester solid surface composites, a product made from recycled aluminum and polyester resins. They are very similar in appearance and manufacture as traditional solid surface and can be cut and incorporated into counter tops and used as a non absorbent, VOC free backsplash.
Recycled Glass and Concrete Backsplash options
There are now several great recycled cement composites on the market that can be used for kitchen backsplashes and wall tiling. For the most part, these designs are durable countertop and flooring surfaces but they are available in tile sizing thus suitable for larger wall projects or open spaces.
Many of these cement composites are made from a mixture of post consumer and industrial glass and porcelain, products easily sourced from old bottles, windows, toilets and bathtubs. They have a Terrazzo design to them and reflect light beautifully.
When choosing these tiles for a backsplash, consider that a substrate is absolute due to the weight of the tiles and try to ensure that they are manufactured with formaldehyde free, VOC free sealers and finishes.
Recycled paper is also being used with recycled glass, Coal Fly ash and virgin cement to form stone like surfaces that are similar to Limestone and Soapstone. These surfaces do need to be sealed and are relatively porous but in the right capacity, can add a lot to the design of your kitchen and bathroom.
Reclaimed FSC hardwood and Bamboo for Backsplashes
Although using wood based products is not ideal for sustainability, there are options available to you. There are manufacturers who are using reclaimed wood and bamboo to create inlaid kitchen backsplashes.
Of course it is more suited to match this to a butcher block or hardwood surface. It is important to ensure that any wood or bamboo products are certified by the FSC to ensure sustainability and proper reforestation practices. Some of the reclaimed wood sources include old barns, wine barrels and farmhouses.
Avoid using this product if varnishes and stains cannot be verified. Look for VOC free products wherever possible as varnish can produce off gases for years after application. Consider using AFM Safecoat, A low VOC emitting, water based replacement for high content lacquer.
The Sexy Green Home Opinion
Obviously there are many great eco products available for backsplashes that are green and sustainable for your home. The important things to consider are your needs and requirements. Certain materials are much higher in recycled content and low in VOC emissions (recycled glass tiles) and others use reclaimed materials (reclaimed FSC hardwood and bamboo) combined with low VOC sealants and lacquers. Regardless of your choice, be sure to use the material that works best in your green space.
Use an environmentally friendly countertop to compliment your backsplash