Turn on HGTV and the first thing you hear is 'my buyers want granite in the kitchen'. Remember, most of the shows you see on HGTV were recorded about 2 to 3 years ago and since then a few things have changed. People are getting more-and-more educated about granite and more options have come on the market.
One of those options is Quartz. You can find the pure mineral, but most products are a composite of quartz and resins. The advantage of the composite is that it actually IS maintenance free where any natural stone (including pure quartz AND granite...) require more maintenance and re-sealing of the product.
Another aspect that has been getting a lot more attention is the location of where the product is manufactured. If you are trying to build green (where possible in your budget) you should look at the distance the product is travelling to make it to the job-site. LEED actually gives you points for regional priority. In fact, it is one of the 7 key areas you need to have points in to qualify.
So, where does all this info lead us in picking a countertop? We always wanted a solid surface. We have Corian now in our current house (produced in Buffalo, NY) but are switching to a quartz countertop since it has the 'look' of real stone and is a lot less busy in it's patterns than granite, which is a requirement for Jen's brain injury.
After making the decision for quartz in our kitchen (bathrooms we're not sure yet) we went looking for the pattern we liked. With using dark-brown colors (java, espresso, etc...) for our cabinets, we wanted a light colored countertop for contrast and to make the overall kitchen appear less dark.
We've found favorites in the collection of pretty much each manufacturer, Cambria, SileStone, CeasarStone, Zodiaq, LG, HanStone, IKEA and the likes. Next we looked at fabrication location. Ceasarstone comes from Israel, SileStone is from Spain. Only Cambria and LG are made in the States and the Korean company HanStone has a manufacturing facility in London, Ontario.
With London, Ontario being within the 500 mile radius LEED requires for regional priority AND it being one of the cheapest per square (we ARE on a budget...), plus them using up to 24% recycled material in their countertops we have chosen the HanStone Specchio White quartz composite countertop (which has the 24% recycled material) as our kitchen countertop for our dreamhouse.
If you want to take a look at our selection, click on the link below and select the 'Specchio White'.
For a great overview of the "greenness" of the different countertop options, click here.