Your kitchen is the place to relax with the morning paper, bake cookies with the kids, post favorite photos on the refrigerator, and keep track of bills and school schedules. It’s also the room where the refrigerator runs 24/7, spills get wiped up with paper towels, gallons of water flow through the dishwasher and food scraps are tossed in the trash.
Few rooms in the house use as many resources or as much energy as the kitchen. Thinking of giving the “heart of the home” a green makeover? If a total green kitchen remodel
isn’t in the budget, that’s OK.
Keep reading to find out how small green changes can have a big impact.
Sweat the small stuff
Before spending big bucks on energy efficient appliances or upgrading to a countertop made from recycled materials
, tackle small projects. Install a water filter
to replace all of those plastic water bottles in the refrigerator, trade toxic cleaners for eco-friendly alternatives
and replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs
. Iannucci also recommends installing a low-flow faucet in the kitchen. “The [water] pressure will still be the same but you [won’t be] using as much water as before,” she explains.
Consider your “cook-print”
“Five years ago, going green in the kitchen meant eating local and organic
; those things are still important but there is so much more to it than that,” says Heyhoe. “Shrinking your cook-print has a huge impact on the environment.”
To reduce your cook-print, Heyhoe suggests choosing kitchen tools such as cutting boards and cookware made from natural materials like bamboo and cast iron and steering clear of plastic containers and disposable dinnerware.
Research energy-efficient appliances
If your avocado-colored refrigerator has been running since the Reagan era, it’s time for an upgrade. Appliances with the Energy Star
label are more energy efficient than their non-certified counterparts. The Environmental Protection Agency
reports that appliances account for 13 percent of home energy bills.
“A lot of people use [appliances] and don’t think for a minute about the energy they’re using or its implications on the planet,” says Maria Vargas, a spokesperson for the EPA’s Energy Star Program. “Appliances are one very visible thing that people can do to reduce their energy consumption.”
According to Vargas, appliances with Energy Star certification don’t cost more than other, less efficient, new appliances.
The 3 Rs of going green — reduce, reuse, recycle
— are especially important in the kitchen. Set up a recycling station
to keep all of the milk cartons, cereal boxes, yogurt containers and peanut butter jars from being dropped in the trash and sent straight to the landfill.
Don’t forget about all of the banana peels, apple cores, eggshells and coffee grounds that get tossed in the trash. The U.S. Department of Agriculture
estimates that Americans waste 30 percent of all of the edible food produced and sold in the nation. Once it hits the landfill, food waste produces harmful methane gas. A green kitchen makeover should include a small kitchen composter
that will turn food scraps into organic matter for the garden
Use renewable resources
When the time comes to remodel the entire kitchen, look for products that were made from sustainable materials
. The selection is better than ever and a growing number of home improvement stores are carrying green products for the kitchen.
John Barrows, co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Building and Remodeling, suggests shopping for countertops made from compressed recycled paper and cabinets made from salvaged wood.
When it comes to flooring, cork, bamboo
and eucalyptus are the greenest choices. All three materials are renewable and just as durable and beautiful as products made from less sustainable materials.
“Make sure that the finishes and the adhesives have a low- or no-VOC finish,” says Barrows.
Remember to recycle
Construction debris accounts for up to 40 percent of all landfill waste. Be sure to ask your contractor to recycle or donate old materials, including appliances, cabinets and fixtures that are being removed during the remodel. Your old sink might be perfect for someone who is also in the midst of a kitchen remodel and is seeking secondhand materials.
Shop for salvaged materials
Skip the big box retailers and look for one-of-a-kind salvaged pieces
. Antique shops, secondhand stores and shops for salvaged building materials, including Habitat for Humanity ReStore
, offer used building materials for a fraction of the cost of buying new. Look for cabinet pulls, tiles for a backsplash and light fixtures that will add vintage character to the kitchen. In some salvage shops, it’s even possible to find flooring, cabinets, sinks and countertops that are in great condition.
Support local retailers
The “buy local” mantra doesn’t just apply to fruits and veggies
. Supporting local manufacturers and retailers is an important part of keeping a remodeling project green.