The Green Home: Kitchen Ideas
Benefits of a Green Kitchen
A green kitchen will have a positive impact on both your family and the environment. The materials that go into a green kitchen are more ecoloically friendly than traditional materials. Special attention is paid to creating less waste in a green kitchen renovation. Green design typically integrates other Earth-friendly features, such as spaces for recycling, collecting compost, and maybe even growing a few fresh herbs. Finally, a green renovation pays special attention to the health of your family. Issues like indoor air quality, reduction of allergens and other chemicals, and increasing your exposure to natural dayliight are all part of the plan. It's about a healthier Earth, and a healthier you.
Please keep in mind: this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. If you can even integrate one or two of these ideas into a remodel or kitchen upgrade, you're having a positive impact.
Green Countertop Options
Here are a few manufacturers of green countertop materials. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will give you good idea of what's out there. Besides these, look for tiles made from recycled glass or metal, which can be found in many home improvement stores.
Eleek--Eleek tiles are made from recycled aluminum, and are available in a wide variety of colors and finishes.
EnviroGLAS--EnviroGLAS' "Enviroslab" countertops are made from 100% recycled glass and porcelain chips, and are available in almost any color and finish.
IceStone--IceStone is made from recycled concrete and glass, and are fully recyclable should you decide to replace them.
Shetka Stone --Shetka Stone looks like granite, but is made from 100% pre- and post-consumer waste paper. In addition, all waste produced in the manufacturing process is recycled back into the process.
Green Kitchen Enviro-Tip
Features of a Green Kitchen
Here are some of the aspects of a green kitchen:
1. Real wood cabinets, or cabinets made from natural materials such as wheatboard or strawboard.
Cabinets made with materials such as particle board or plywood are made using binders and adhesives that offgas harmful chemicals in your home. These chemicals, including formaldehyde, have been shown by the EPA to cause and worsen conditions such as asthma and allergies. In addition, formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. Real wood doesn't offgas, and, if it's finished with natural waxes or no VOC paints or stains, you won't have to worry about chemicals from the finish either. Ideally, the wood for your kitchen cabinets should be from an eco-friendly source---either certified as having been sustainably grown and harvested, or reclaimed from other sources.
2. Natural flooring.
Look for natural materials such as bamboo, cork, natural linoleum, or reclaimed or sustainable wood, and finish them with natural oils or sealers. Again, traditional materials such as vinyl offgas in our homes, negatively affecting our health and indoor air quality. Other materials, such as granite and marble, are fine for air quality but are not sustainable options.
3. Natural countertops.
Many of the same issues found in flooring are issues with countertops as well. Check out the list in the sidebar for natural countertop options.
4. Energy Efficient Appliances and Lighting
Try to buy the most efficient appliances you can afford. If you can only choose one item to splurge on, purchase an energy efficient refrigerator. Look for the Energy Star label. You can also visit the Energy Star website to compare several different brands and models of refrigerators. According to Energy Star, refrigeration accounts for up to 10% of our total home energy use. If we can make this area more efficient, it will go a long way toward reducing our environmental impact. Of course, be sure to use compact fluorescent or LED lights throughout your kitchen as well.
5. Pay attention to your windows.
A large part of the green home movement is about improving our health through improving our homes. One way to do that is to make wise window choices. Make sure that your kitchen windows are operable, so that you can get fresh air into your home. Also make sure that your windows let in plenty of natural sunlight. Sunlight not only reduces our need for electric lights during the day, but it has been shown to have a positive impact on our health as well, reducing afflictions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
6. Reduce waste.
From the start of your renovation through to the day-to-day use of your green kitchen, try to reduce waste as much as possible. During renovation, look for places to donate or recycle your old appliances, cabinets, and building materials. The less we send to the landfills, the better. Along the same line of thinking, green kitchens focus on making recycling and composting easy. A dedicated area for recycling, as well as being sure you have an area for collecting compostable kitchen scraps, are both great ideas for a green kitchen. It can be as complex or simple as you'd like. Simple solutions include an area set aside for a recycling bin system and a crock or pail stored on your countertop for collecting kitchen scraps.
More About Green Kitchens....
- Remodeling Your Kitchen: Why Go Green?
GreenHomeGuide's helpful article about the benefits of a green kitchen.
- Green Kitchens: How to Do It, Why It Matters
Practical advice for installing a green kitchen.
- Kitchens.com Green Kitchen Remodel
A list of ten great green kitchen features, plus a handy diagram of a green kitchen.
- Building Green TV: Green Kitchens
Short video about creating a green kitchen.
- The Kitchen Designer: Green Countertops
Great list and descriptions of green countertop options.
- Clean, Green and Affordable Kitchen
This article from This Old House describes a budget-friendly, green kitchen remodel from start to finish.
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