When it comes to kitchen renovations, green is the new stainless steel! Start a green revolution in your own home by performing a kitchen overhaul that respects the earth and reduces airborne toxins, too.
Reduce and Reuse
One person’s trash really is another’s treasure, so don’t waste landfill space on goods others can use. Before you start gutting your kitchen, consider refurbishing and reusing items you already have. If you do end up tossing items, such as appliances, tables, chairs or cabinets, take them to a charitable organization, hold a yard sale or simply leave the goods on the curb with a sign that says "Free to a good home!" (But be careful with used appliances, such as refrigerators and washers or dryers, which should be secured shut to prevent children from climbing inside.)
Look to outfit your new kitchen with recycled materials or products made from plants that can be sustainably harvested:
- For flooring, try Marmoleum, a new brand of linoleum made from eco-friendly materials such as linseed oil and natural pigment. Or go for cork tiles, bamboo tongue-and-groove strip flooring or eucalyptus wood flooring. Always double check that the adhesive used for your flooring isn’t made with urea-formaldehyde or other toxic solvents.
- When shopping for cabinetry, seek out products made by companies who use wheat board or wood that’s certified to have been harvested sustainably. Don’t use wood composite or particle board – this stuff tends to release off-gassing chemicals into the air.
- Countertops can be made from materials that are naturally durable and water-resistant, such as stained concrete, porcelain tile and indigenous stone. Counters can also be constructed from recycled or salvage materials. Some products to check out include Richlite, which is made from recycled paper, IceStone, a beautiful composite material made from recycled glass chips embedded in concrete, or EnviroGLAS, a recycled glass composite. Backsplashes are also available in recycled glass composite tiles or salvage pottery pieces.
Look for stains, finishes and glues that don’t pollute the air with off-gassing chemicals called VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds). Low- and no-VOC paints are now available almost anywhere, but you can go even more natural by searching out paints made with milk protein, lime, clay and earth pigments – try (www.homesteadhouse.ca). Stains can be earth-friendly, too, in formulations that include linseed and citrus oils and natural pigments.
These days, it’s easy to find Energy Star appliances, all of which have passed an energy efficiency test. An energy efficient appliance will ultimately save you money, since they cost 20 per cent less to run than older models. And many municipalities even offer cash rebates for residents who purchase energy efficient appliances that save on water. Also look for energy efficient vent fans, task lighting and lighting controls. And consider location when placing your appliances in your new kitchen. Too much heat means a refrigerator must work double time, so avoid placing this appliance near a window, heat duct, radiator or stove.
Recycling Made Easy
Make it super simple to recycle in your new, eco-friendly kitchen by purchasing a pre-assembled or cabinet-retrofit recycling centre. These centres make organizing and managing recyclables a snap, go well with any style of kitchen and are available in a full range of cabinet materials.
Right now, eco-friendly home building projects cost 20-30 per cent more than regular jobs, which may make your dream green kitchen less than attainable. Don’t give up on the idea of carrying out an environmentally friendly renovation project. Instead, set priorities, weigh pros and cons of materials and make compromises – such as getting a regular countertop in order to afford a eucalyptus wood floor. Finally, offset the carbon footprint you create with the project by contributing to organizations that plant trees or invest in renewable energy.