It’s quite refreshing how many people are interesting in using environmentally friendly products these days, even when they’re taking on expensive home improvement projects such as remodeling the kitchen. Fortunately, you can now get “green” materials without paying any more than you would for other high-end materials. Unfortunately, you can’t always find these eco-friendly countertops, cabinets, and floors at your local home improvement store.
Specialty stores (those that emphasize green living) are your friend here, but since they’re smaller, they won’t always have all the options. It’s a good idea to research online and decide what kind of flooring, countertops, appliances, etc. you want before you even look for a buyer.
That’s where this article can help. We’ll look at a few areas where you can make environmentally friendly choices when remodeling the kitchen. In the end, your new kitchen will look as good as anybody else’s on the block (maybe better).
There are lots of eco-friendly options for kitchen countertops. Concrete is low-maintenance and easy to mold into whatever shape and thickness you want. Natural stone such as granite, though a somewhat limited resource, doesn’t give off harmful vapors that man-made materials can. Countertops made from recycled materials are increasingly popular. You can find everything from paper to glass to ceramic (how would you like a handsome Terrazzo countertop made from old toilets, sinks, and tubs that would otherwise be cluttering up landfills?).
Bamboo is becoming very popular in the flooring arena, both in the kitchen and other rooms of the house. Since it’s a grass, it grows much more quickly than trees, so it’s an easily replenished resource. If you prefer hardwood flooring, consider wood harvested from sustainable forests. You can also get hardwoods made from salvaged or reclaimed wood (such as from old buildings that were torn down). These natural materials are often more eco-friendly than man-made compounds.
Make sure to choose Energy Star appliances when you’re shopping for your new oven, dishwasher, refrigerator. They may be more expensive than traditional models, but these appliances use 10-50% less energy and water so you will save money in the long run. You don’t have to give up style for energy efficiency; you can get stainless steel and other high-end finishes in Energy Star-rated models.
Is there such thing as an environmentally friendly cooktop? Of course. The new induction units on the market use electricity to produce a magnetic field that causes molecular movement, which heats pans instead of burners. This method of heating uses less energy than gas and electric stoves, and induction cooktops are safer too (no need to worry about a child touching a hot burner).
Choosing cabinets that are functional and handsome is a big part of a kitchen remodel, since they take up a large portion of the room. When you’re looking for eco-friendly options, choose the same sorts of materials you would with flooring. Bamboo and reclaimed wood are handsome choices. If you need less expensive cabinets, you can get fiberboard or particleboard, but make sure to find cabients that don’t contain urea formaldehyde, which is as unpleasant as it sounds; it’s not something you want in a healthy kitchen.
Paints and Finishes
Kitchen remodeling isn’t just about countertops, cabinets, and shiny stainless steel appliances. Think about the paints you’ll use on the walls and the finishes you’ll use on cabinets and countertops too. You should choose paints and finishes with Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) ratings. (Many conventional materials have high VOCs, and these compounds produce potentially harmful gases when they’re applied. These can be troublesome for those with allergies or chemical sensitivities, and they diminish the indoor air quality for all.
Most kitchens will have at least one window. You can help save energy by installing Energy Star-qualified windows (in the rest of the house as well as the kitchen).
The eco-friendly homeowner will make recycling a part of his or her life. You can make separating jars, bottles, and cans easy by building a recycling center into your kitchen. When choosing the cabinets you want to install, consider adding one with a slide out unit that holds a traditional garbage receptacle and a can or cans for recycling too.