October 18, 2009

Vetrazzo: A green message in a bottle

“I want to lick this product.” (Really. They said this. You can't make this stuff up.)
~ Anonymous Vetrazzo fan

Back in April, I wrote a post about my virtual kitchen transformation. It’s about my dream kitchen and all the cool things I’d put in it — like sleek & sexy cobalt blue cabinets and an island with a Chivalry Blue countertop from Vetrazzo. Just like this:

chivalry blue kitchen counter 2

If you aren’t familiar with Vetrazzo, you’re about to learn all about it right now!! Craig Murphy is the Marketing Coordinator at Vetrazzo, and he graciously agreed to do an interview with me. So grab a snack, pull up a chair, and enjoy some gorgeous eye candy as you learn pretty much everything there is to know about Vetrazzo!! And you’ll even meet a goat :-)

divider line(Click the pictures for colour names and descriptions).

floating blue chip When and how did the concept for Vetrazzo first come about?

Vetrazzo was invented in 1996 by a glass scientist working on his PhD in glass and materials science. Driven by his passion for the environment, he got the idea to recapture the inherent beauty of recycled glass by transforming it into a functionally superior building material.

Fast-forward 10 years to 2006. An enthusiastic Vetrazzo customer sees an opportunity to help bring sustainability to the surfacing market in a much bigger way. Armed with passion for her countertop, keen business sense, and a large Rolodex, she sets out. It's not long before a new management team is formed, capital is raised, and a new company is built around the wildly successful Vetrazzo product.

holllywood sage counter

In October 2006, the new team, under the banner of Vetrazzo, LLC, opens the doors on a brand new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in a recycled Ford auto plant on the Bay in Richmond, California. A month later, the new era kicks off by shipping the plant's first Vetrazzo panel to actor and environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr. for installation on the nationally televised show, Living with Ed.


holllywood sage chip That was the first time I saw a Vetrazzo countertop, on that episode of Living With Ed. I thought it was beautiful and unique, and knew it had to be environmentally friendly for Rachelle to be able to convince Ed to have it installed in their kitchen!! Which came first — Hollywood Sage or the installation in Ed's kitchen?

It was originally called Sage, but the name was changed to Hollywood Sage due to its rather famous introduction. So technically, I would say Ed's installation came first. Two years later, Ed was on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and showed off a piece of Vetrazzo's Cobalt Skyy.

cobalt sky vanity

Vetrazzo is uses recycled glass, which is good for the environment. How else is Vetrazzo green?

(a) Vetrazzo's manufacturing facility in Richmond, California uses 100% US recycled glass and employs 100% US labor. This seriously cuts down the need for long distance shipping.

cool titanium counter

(b) Polishing the slabs is our most water intensive process, but thanks to our closed-loop water recycling/recirculation system, we save around 200,000 gallons of water a month. We use more water in the kitchen and bathroom than we do in polishing the Vetrazzo.

(c) We were recently given an award from the California Resource and Recovery Association stating that we have a commitment and plan to re-purpose and recycle all that we produce. They closely reviewed and audited our entire production process and reclamation plan and awarded us with "The Outstanding Commitment to Closing the Loop" Award.

(d) This brings me to our next sustainable practice of reclaiming any Vetrazzo that is removed from a home or business. It is our goal that no Vetrazzo ever ends up in a landfill. Vetrazzo remnants can be fabricated into useful items such as trivets, trays, stepping stones, small tables, benches etc. Damaged Vetrazzo can be recycled into road-base. Removed Vetrazzo in good shape can be returned to Vetrazzo for recycling via our “Vetrazzo “Takeback” Program.

glass house counter

(e) In any manufacturing process there is breakage. In our case, we actually pay a company to come pick up our broken and off-spec panels. They in turn crush it up and use it to make the base for road beds. This is just another part of our commitment to reducing our waste to zero.

(f) Last but not least, I think the coolest environmental innovation we employ is also the oldest. Our entire plant is day lit by large south facing skylights. The plant was originally built in the 1920's with day-lit technology incorporated from the very beginning. Originally, the plant was a Ford factory, then it was repurposed to manufacture tanks during the war, before it was repurposed again to manufacture Fords. Eventually it became a book depository as car manufacturing declined on the West Coast. Vetrazzo has successfully repurposed it again to its primary purpose of manufacturing. In California, manufacturing is rare. We’re proud that our growing company is providing jobs at a living wage with health benefits to workers living in an economically depressed area with an acute need for jobs.

We are in the process of completing a Life Cycle Analysis to determine where we are excelling and where we can improve. We hope that the rest of the industry follows our lead. We are proud to lead the market in our innovative ways to create recycled glass countertops. You can see a video from our President, James Sheppard, detailing our commitment to sustainability.

cubist clear

By the way, we also save all of our food scraps here in the office and give them to one of our staff member's pet goat. What Mama Goat can't eat, we compost.

mama goat

What are your primary sources of glass?

bistro green

Our primary source of glass is post-consumer California Redemption Value glass, more commonly known as the glass recycled by homeowners, bars, and restaurants throughout Northern California. Last night's beer and wine bottles are today's beautiful recycled glass countertops. Another more unusual form of post consumer glass is salvaged glass we acquire from demolished buildings.

We also use a post-industrial glass that would otherwise be sent to the landfill or melted down at a high energy cost and repurposed as glass bottles, jars, etc. At a relatively low energy cost, Vetrazzo takes this crushed, unprocessed glass and creates artful surfaces that will last for many decades to come. Our post industrial glass sources are numerous, but some of the most common yet interesting are sources such as:

Cobalt Skyy Blue glass from the Skyy Vodka bottling plant.
skyy bottle

Flint and Georgia green glass from bottle manufacturers.
green bottles

Architectural glass from sky scrapers.

floating blue building

Safety glass from windshields, shower doors…safety glass general sunshield

Can you briefly describe how Vetrazzo is made.

Vetrazzo's production is commonly described as making chocolate chip cookies. The glass is the chocolate chips, the batter is Portland cement. The only difference is that Vetrazzo is 85% glass by volume — so imagine a chocolate chip cookie that is nearly solid chocolate {OK, I’ll imagine that…. YUMMMMMMM!!!!!!!}

cookie dough flickr

All of the materials used are inert, so Vetrazzo is a zero-VOC product. The glass is mixed together with cement, water, and a few proprietary materials (no petroleum or resins are used) and poured into a 9ft x 5ft mold—or baking pan if you will—and cured overnight to temper the material and make it incredibly strong. The panel is then lifted from the mold and polished to a high-gloss finish with a large scale granite polisher. It is then sealed and ready for fabrication by stone fabricators across North America.

alehouse amber counter

How come Firehouse Red is no longer in your colour palette?

Firehouse Red is a limited edition mix due to the limited availability of recycled red glass. We are continually working to find new sources of recycled red glass and as we acquire it we will make Firehouse Red available to the market.

firehouse red chip

Are there any new colourways planned?

On May 1st, we introduced four new colors. They are of the neutral variety and all use flint glass as their source glass.

Martini Flint:
martini flint chipmartini flint counter
Porter Flint:
porter flint chipporter flint counter
Champagne Flint:champagne flintchampagne flint counter Margarita Flint:margarita flintmargarita flint counter 2

How does Vetrazzo compare in terms of durability with other manmade products like Silestone and Corian? Compared to natural stone like granite?

floating blue counter close

Vetrazzo performs much like natural stone in that it needs to be sealed once a year. This process usually takes no more than 20 minutes. Wipe down your Vetrazzo, spray on sealer, let sit 20 minutes, and wipe away. Because Vetrazzo uses no petroleum products, it actually outperforms the resin/quartz products on a number of levels:

1. No use of resin makes Vetrazzo much more scratch resistant.

2. Vetrazzo is heat rated to 600 degrees Fahrenheit (resin products top out at 350 degrees), so Vetrazzo won't warp, melt, or change colors when you put a hot pan on it.

3. Because Vetrazzo is glass and cement, it is 100% UV proof, unlike stone or resin products that will fade or change colors under exposure to sunlight.

Are there any specific maintenance issues?

We recommend cleaning Vetrazzo with dish soap and water. This is much healthier for the owner and the Vetrazzo than chemical cleaning products. Harsh chemicals will affect the sealer over time. We recommend sealing it with a stone sealer that can be found at any hardware store once a year. This is usually no more than a 20 minute process.

What other applications (besides countertops) is Vetrazzo suitable for? For instance, could it be used in a shower?

Vetrazzo is great for shower surrounds, perfect for fireplace mantles, outdoor bar-b-ques, wall cladding, tabletops, conference tables… you name it. Anywhere stone is used (and more), Vetrazzo can be applied.

hollywood sage outside

Are you planning to expand your market into eastern Canada?

Vetrazzo is available throughout the US and Western Canada and is in talks with distributors in Eastern Canada right now. We hope to have distributorship in Eastern Canada 2010.

Where is the most interesting place that Vetrazzo has been installed?

You mean other than Ed Begley Jr's home? Vetrazzo is in numerous Whole Foods, The Ritz Carlton in Miami, and many other fine restaurants and bars. But I think the most interesting installation is the Hornblower Hybrid Ferry. This is the first hybrid ferry in North America. It will transport over 1.5 million people each year to and from Alcatraz in an Francisco Bay.

hornblower ferry showboats

All of its bar tops are surfaced with Vetrazzo's Cobalt Skyy with patina.

cobalt patina ferry

Thank you, Craig!!

meta monday

Seeing as Vetrazzo  is a metamorphosis of broken glass to beautiful countertops, I'm linking this post to Susan’s blog party, Metamorphosis Monday. Check out Between Naps on the Porch for more cool transformations.

And, check out Vetrazzo’s web site to see their complete colour palette. And the Vetrazzo blog, Message in a Bottle, has lots of interesting insider info. And you can follow Vetrazzo on Facebook and Twitter too :-)

sig new

vetrazzo logoUnless otherwise noted, all pictures from and Message in a Bottle.


The Quintessential Magpie said...

This is fascinating! I want a countertop like that! WOW! Thanks for sharing.

Happy Met Monday...


Sheila :-)

janet said...

Kelly, i saw that episode about Ed's counter top, i thought it was pretty amazing, i love the new neutrals too.

Kammy said...

Very cool and green ! I want to replace my counters someday and will have to leave this option open !

Moore Minutes said...

Wow, this post was so intriguing! I so enjoyed learning and reading it! Thank you so much for posting. And those are incredible countertops too.

Happy Met Monday!

Anonymous said...

Wow! Those are great.

I have a linky party and a plea for help at my place, care to stop by:


The countertops are amazing. The blue is so pretty!

Maya @ Completely Coastal said...

I love it..., and the blue tones feel so beachy! But still..., when I watch these home shows it seems granite is still number one -for home buyers at least.

Lindsey said...

I love this stuff! The green-ness is very attractive, but does everything green have to be so expensive? I would consider buying this if it was more competitively priced.

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