Granite is obtained through a quarry process and is mined in many countries including India, Italy and the United States. It weathers well and is a hard, durable product that does not scratch or stain easily. Granite has been used as a building product for centuries, but it is not the only durable worktop product. Using recycled materials, concrete, and composites are also choices. Whether a counter top is for a eco-conscious "green" kitchen or simply needs to be incredibly durable, there are a number of alternatives to granite.
Innovate With Concrete
Pigment can be added to concrete to create a variety of colours and is only limited by the imagination of the designer plus the time needed for the concrete to cure or harden. Concrete counter tops can be a do-it-yourself project but will require a learning curve. The project involves creating a counter top template, building a mould, preparing the concrete mixture, pouring the concrete and curing and finishing time---then the counter tops can be installed. Look for an experienced local concrete counter top maker for assistance. Read the book "Concrete Counter tops" by Fu-Tung Cheng for a clearer idea of how concrete can be turned into a counter top.
Try A Composite Product
Composite products are combinations of resins and pigments along with a stone or fibre product. These products include Silestone, a quartz, resin binder, and pigment combination that is also referred to as an engineered stone, and Athlon, a high pressure laminate made of resins and cellulose fibre. Also available is a product called Pyrolave, a lava stone that has a kiln-dried enamel coating. The manufacturer claims it is impervious to heat and staining. These products are available from flooring companies in North America although many of the products are made in Europe. The book "Renovating A Kitchen" by Fine Homebuilding provides source contacts for these products.
Use Recycled Materials
Recycled materials are the green alternative to granite counter tops. The book, "Knack Green Decorating and Remodeling," by Heather Paper addresses the use of a paper counter top. The product is similar to composite products---it uses a resin to solidify sheets of kraft paper. The use of an eco-friendly resin makes this product a great recycled material. Recycled glass counter tops are also available and require no grout product.