Nothing really transforms you home like a kitchen remodel. And the exciting part is you don’t have to sacrifice design elements for sustainable living. Since the kitchen is the most energy-intensive room in your home, going green here can add significant value to your home remodel investment. For example, one of the biggest culprits can be appliances. Bigger is definitely not always better in this area. Use of too much water and energy, poor air quality due to lack of ventilation, chemical sensitization due to emissions from cabinetry and flooring, and lack of space for recyclables are some of the top issues with conventional kitchens.
In addition to environmental benefits, there are also positive emotional benefits to going green with your kitchen remodel. First of all, you’ll have a brighter, better-ventilated room…nice because the kitchen is often where you spend the most time with friends and family. Choosing to live sustainably in your home can also feel great, think less toxic chemicals, lower energy rates, a focus on recyclables and compostables…it’s nice to know you are doing something good for your family and for the environment. Let’s take a look at five ways you can…and should…incorporate these eco-friendly ideas into your next kitchen remodel.
As we mentioned, the biggest issues in conventional kitchens are the appliances. And believe it or not, the first place you can be more energy efficient is by going all-electric. We know there was a time when everyone was told gas was the way to go for efficiency, but the latest modern induction range tops and convection ovens will go a long way in saving energy. The truth is your kitchen appliances use up to 10% of the energy in your home, with the refrigerator being 5th on the list of appliances using the most energy. That’s why when considering your kitchen remodel, one of the best long term investments you can make is replacing your existing appliances with those that are ENERGY STAR certified. An ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator uses about half as much energy as a 15-year old refrigerator, and a dishwasher is about 12 percent more energy-efficient and 30 percent more water efficient than standard models. Not only will you love your new appliances, your energy bills will be less too!
Another big decision when it comes to a kitchen remodel is cabinets and they also play a role in creating an eco-friendly kitchen. You want to look for options that use coatings designed to reduce VOC emissions and offer the lowest possible formaldehyde content levels. Choose a cabinet company that is committed to sustainable practices both in the products it offers and in its business practices, and offers options that include safer materials, sustainable woods such as beech or bamboo, eco-friendly woods, or other wood alternatives.
When it comes to kitchen lighting, think natural light as well as electrical. Start by looking for ways to add several operable windows that add natural daylight and ventilation. When adding new windows (or replacing old ones), choose high-quality windows that will minimize heat transfer between the inside and the outside of your home. According to ENERGY STAR, by replacing old windows with those that are ENERGY STAR certified, you can lower your energy bills by an average of 12 percent. Don’t forget to make use of skylights or tubular day lighting systems too. When it comes to electrical lighting, make sure to choose LEDs over traditional bulbs. While an investment up front, LEDs are incredibly energy efficient and last about 20 times longer than regular bulbs…important for one of the most popular rooms in the home.
The world of eco-friendly flooring options has really taken off, and now you can find everything from FSC-certified wood to sustainable cork flooring to help keep things beautiful and earth-friendly in your kitchen. One of the hottest new options in kitchen flooring is cork. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, which are not cut down to harvest the bark, making it the ideal renewable resource. The anti-microbial properties reduce allergens in the home, plus it’s easy to maintain, a natural fire retardant, and can be finished in a variety of paints and stains. Oh and did we mention they are durable too? Most cork floors last between 10-30 years.
Bamboo is also a very popular wood species right now, both in cabinetry and flooring. Bamboo is actually a grass that is very similar to hardwood that is sustainable and made from natural vegetation that grows in just three-seven years. Durable and easy to maintain, it’s also very easy to install.
Finally, if you truly are ready to commit to a sustainable lifestyle, you must include options for recycling and composting in your kitchen remodel. Talk to your cabinet designer about pull-out storage areas for recycling, and/or a compost drawer. Even consider working receptacles for compostable materials near your kitchen work prep areas. The key to recycling is easy access and sufficient room for storage in the kitchen, so make sure to think this element through when working with your professional.