Go Green with Your Kitchen Remodel

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Oct 16, 2016 | Laura Firszt

Tim Crowe/flickr

Yes, you can … renovate your kitchen without sacrificing your concern for the environment. The trick is plenty of advance research and careful planning. Change only what you need to and use the most eco-friendly materials you can find, sourced and built locally if at all possible. Choose durable installations and classic designs that will not require replacement for many years to come. And enjoy your new kitchen!

Cabinets

You may be pleasantly surprised at how simple it is to get a new look without tearing down and replacing all your cabinetry. Instead, you may well be able to save money and resources by refreshing your kitchen cabinets in one of the following 4 environmentally conscious ways:

  1. refinish with a natural plant oil-based stain
  2. paint over (choose the lowest VOC paint you can get your hands on)
  3. add a thin wood veneer.
  4. replace just the doors if the box (the part of your kitchen cabinetry that is attached to the wall) is still in good shape but the doors are damaged beyond repair.

Whenever you utilize wood for your kitchen cabinets or shelving, look for salvaged or sustainably sourced material, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Attaching vintage hardware, as drawer pulls or doorknobs, will give your cabinets a whimsical touch without increasing your carbon footprint.

Countertops

Kitchen countertops are true multitaskers, at one and the same time the central workhorse of your cooking activities and a highly visible design feature. GOOD NEWS: You will find a plethora of attractive, sturdy countertop possibilities -- either solid state or in tile form -- which have been crafted from recycled waste. Some of the unlikely sources include materials like broken glass, wood scraps or pulp, odds and ends of concrete, and post-consumer aluminum. Another eco-friendly countertop choice is butcher block which has been manufactured from responsibly harvested wood.

Appliances

If you will need to purchase new appliances for your kitchen remodel, make sure that you do so as an informed consumer. Look for the Energy Star label when you shop for a new refrigerator or dishwasher, to reduce your carbon footprint and save both energy and money. (At this time, the Energy Star program does not certify stoves, ovens, or microwaves for residential use -- yet.)

Plumbing

Reduce waste of a vital natural resource … water … without sacrificing functionality in your kitchen. Install plumbing fixtures such as kitchen faucets that are certified WaterSense efficient and low-flow; they should also be compliant with today’s strict no-lead legislation. In addition, consider putting in place a home graywater system to “recycle” water previously used for kitchen tasks such as dishwashing or rinsing fruit and vegetables (as well as showers and laundry) – it will be repurposed to flush toilets and water your garden. To save on electricity or natural gas, resetting your home water heater to a lower temperature is a fast and easy DIY task.

Floors

Reclaimed wood, salvaged from demolished buildings or rescued from the bottom of a lake or stream, is probably the most environmentally friendly choice for flooring. However, despite its humble origins, it can be quite pricey – and you may not be entirely comfortable with the idea of moisture-vulnerable hardwood floors in the kitchen. Other good materials  are linoleum (which is naturally sourced from solidified linseed oil) or sustainably harvested cork (from the bark of the cork oak).

Recycling and Composting Area

Turn your concern for our precious planet into concrete, viable action by adding in a customized recycling and composting area, perhaps in a dedicated cupboard or pantry, when you design your kitchen renovation. The easier it is for you and your family to access, the more likely you are to use it.

Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.

Updated June 25, 2018.

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