If you're in the market to change the look of your home, you don't always have to go for the brand new stuff. In fact, sometimes old décor adds a classy touch. Using recycled glass in a home isn't just beautiful; it also helps save the environment. As much as 70 percent of all glass ends up in landfills, despite environmental recycling program efforts.

Joe Thompson a former engineer is the owner and artist at Bear Creek Glass in Alabama. He went to Pilchuck Glass School in 2001 and fell in love with the art of glass making.

"I came back from that school and built equipment and put it in my garage and pretty soon started selling some things," says Thompson.

Today his business is taking off because the designs are not only pleasing but resourceful.

"Not only are we saving space in landfills but we are also saving energy as a company and we are saving money because recycling scrapped glass doesn't cost as much. There are some costs involved but it doesn't cost as much as making glass from sand, soda, and lime and those constituents that you have to use to make it from scratch," explains Thompson.

When you speak with Thompson it's easy to see how his love for turning recycled glass into beautiful home designs is part of what makes each one unique and compelling.

"All of our designs are influenced by nature and have organic looks to them," says Thompson.

Using recycled glass for interior designs such as chandeliers, decorative tiles, and even kitchen and bathroom sinks requires some understanding about the effects of glass.

"If you're doing something like glass tiles or glass lighting you need to understand that glass can be transparent, totally opaque, or it can be somewhere in between. So light will look different if you shine light from the outside of the glass piece versus the inside of the glass piece," explains Thompson.

He says if you plan to use a transparent tile on your wall, you need to make sure the mortar that is used to secure the tile is an appropriate look that you are trying to create as the substance could show through.

Decorative glass tiles can provide a very interesting and unique look not typical of more common types of tile. For the homeowner, this can be a win-win-win situation. The recycled glass is resistant to stains and chemicals so it makes it a good choice for areas that are likely to get wet. Think of kitchen backsplash areas or bathroom floors. They're durable and easy to clean and are quite popular with buyers. Environmentally conscientious buyers may just find them an irresistible draw. And the final win? You're helping reduce landfill waste.

Once your recycled glass tile is selected, maybe you're also considering a new vanity for your bathroom. There are some charming designs for sinks that can be placed atop or under-mounted in the vanity but Thompson has this word of caution for those who like it extra hot.

"They can be damaged by scalding hot water," says Thompson. He adds that they could crack if the water is set too high. "If you have your water heater set on energy savings it's not a problem," he says.

A good rule to remember with glass sinks is that if you can't hold your hand under the water it could be too hot for the sink "but we sell a lot of these and we have very few problems in the field with them," says Thompson.

Glass products range from high-end, hand-blown glass to the low-end, machine or mass-produced. Be sure to look for good quality and research installation techniques so that your newly-added glass doesn't shatter your decorating designs.

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