More and more, homeowners are conscious of the environment when remodeling or building a new home. “Green” design is in high demand and can be incorporated into nearly every aspect of your kitchen. It’s not only about choosing reclaimed or sustainable materials, but also being conscious about the function of your kitchen and your ability to lower energy usage with smart design, from the appliances you choose to the size of your windows.
Functionality + Eco-Conscious Design = A Kitchen You’ll Love for Years to Come
A truly eco-friendly kitchen has a thoughtful, holistic design that supports a healthy family lifestyle and saving energy and the planet at the same time.
The key to achieving this is longevity of design and function. Elizabeth Herrmann, president of Elizabeth Herrmann architecture + design, says “To create a green kitchen, thoughtful and enduring design and products must take precedence over size and trendy features.” Doing a kitchen remodel every few years is a waste of energy and resources.
Here are some of our favorite ways you can be eco-conscious in your new kitchen.
Strategically-placed and enlarged windows will brighten up a room and decrease your need for lights to be turned on during the day. Consider extending windows from your countertop to the ceiling so that during the day, the kitchen is flooded with natural light. You’ll see the benefits in your lower electricity bill and reduced carbon footprint.
Larger windows also provide improved ventilation, and circulation of fresher outdoor air. According to the EPA, indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, so keep them open when the weather allows.
Switch to LEDs
LED light bulbs might be a greater investment up front, but will save you a lot of money in the long run. They use only about 20% of the energy of standard light bulbs and last 25% longer. Modern LEDs come in a wide range of color options so you can find just the right balance of warmth and functionality for your kitchen.
Low-Flow Water Faucet Aerator
The EPA recommends adding an aerator to your kitchen faucet, as it can save 700 gallons of water per year for an average family. Better for the environment, easier on your wallet.
If you have plans to upgrade your kitchen appliances, make sure to choose energy-efficient and energy-saving models. Modern Energy Star appliances use up to 50% less energy than standard models.
Say “No” to VOCs
Most people overlook the ingredients of the products they use—from kitchen cleaning products to furniture. Kelly Taylor, a LEED-accredited expert in sustainable design, reminds us that resins in products made for cabinets, countertops, and flooring often have added urea formaldehyde, a known VOC. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that easily become harmful gases released into the air, and they’re dangerous to human health.
Volatile compounds are found in nearly every kind of kitchen material, including glue, paint, and sealants.
Note that all tagged “green” products are not equal. The best indicator that a product doesn’t degrade indoor air quality is the Greenguard certification.
Classic wood can be a green option. Just make sure to buy FSC-certified wood—these types of wood are harvested responsibly or are reclaimed wood. Local species (easily available in your area) will also cut down on things like fuel used during shipping.
Another eco-friendly option is cork. It’s a durable and natural material that costs the same as hardwood but has the advantage of sustainability. Cork trees regenerate every 9 years! Plus, cork floors are great in your kitchen because they’re more comfortable to stand on when you’re preparing meals.
Donate, Reuse and Recycle!
While we often think of using reclaimed, recycled, or upcycled materials in a modern kitchen, going green also means finding a responsible way to get rid of your old stuff—cabinets, appliances, windows, and everything else. Limit what goes to the landfill. Donate to organizations like Habitat for Humanity, list stuff on Craigslist, or pass it on to friends or family.
Set up a Recycling Station
In order to be an efficient recycler, you need a workable system that’s easy to access. You can create a dedicated space in your kitchen to set up a simple recycling station. Ask your designer to incorporate this into their design.
Compost and Proper Garbage Disposal
One of the most eco-friendly things you can do is to compost your organic waste and use the composted material for your lawn and garden. There are now several green models that make composting convenient. To make composting easy and convenient, ask your contractor to build it right into the structure of your kitchen.
Add Some Greenery
Plants improve the air quality in your home and add to your overall health and wellbeing, so consider adding them to your kitchen. If space is a challenge, try a vertical herb garden. Not only do you get beauty and cleaner air, but you’ll have fresh ingredients close at hand, for a fraction of what you’d pay for them at the grocery store.
Choose a Green Contractor
Be sure to hire an experienced contractor who speaks your language and understands your eco-friendly concerns! Ask around before deciding on which contractor you are going to hire. Whether you choose to spruce up your kitchen flooring, or do a complete remodel, we’re here to help you bring to life your environmentally conscious ideas. Our professional design and build team members are here to inform and inspire you! To request a quote or ask a question, call us at (650) 287-4202 or drop us a note in our contact form.