Sustainable living is any practice that reduces your reliance on natural resources, shrinks your carbon footprint, and minimizes your impact on the environment. Sustainable actions can be as simple as driving less and choosing locally grown produce, or as involved as composting your organic waste and switching to solar energy.
Making your home more sustainable isn’t simply better for the planet; it’s also better for your wallet and your health. As the heart of any sustainable home, an eco-friendly kitchen uses environmentally conscious materials and energy-efficient appliances to make your daily life as green as possible.
Whether you’re remodeling your kitchen or building one from scratch, going green is easier than you think. Here’s how sustainable materials and methods can help you design and build the eco-friendly kitchen of your dreams.
Eco-Friendly Design Principles
Eco-friendly design is all about using less to achieve more. Specifically, it means using the fewest resources and the lowest possible amount of energy to renovate an existing space or build a new home without compromising your overall vision or goal.
Green design seeks to reduce negative environmental impacts through:
- Sustainably sourced materials that require minimal upkeep
- Non-toxic finishes that improve indoor air quality
- Low-flow faucets and dishwashers that conserve water
- Energy-efficient appliances that use less non-renewable energy
Given that longevity is a key aspect of sustainability, eco-friendly kitchen design also aims to be enduring — the selected materials, fixtures, finishes, and appliances are chosen for their sustainable origins as well as their timeless appeal and long-term durability.
Sustainable Kitchen Materials
Homeowners sometimes worry that a green kitchen renovation will limit their choices when it comes to surface materials, but nothing could be further from the truth: there’s a wide array of sustainably sourced countertop and flooring materials that are just as beautiful and resilient as their conventional counterparts.
In addition to green materials like reclaimed hardwood and recycled glass, there are plenty of sustainably sourced material options — FSC-certified timber countertops and wood flooring come from responsibly managed forests, while environmentally-friendly cork flooring can be recycled at the end of its long lifespan.
Quartz (engineered stone) is another eco-friendly countertop option. Unlike granite, which is a non-renewable resource that’s extracted from the earth in an energy-intensive process, quartz can be made from recycled materials. Quartz is also extremely durable and doesn’t need toxic sealants to keep it in prime condition.
Building Greener Cabinets
Unlike conventional kitchen cabinets, eco-friendly cabinets are built with sustainably sourced materials, non-toxic glues and finishes, and, if possible, repurposed, or recycled hardware.
Made of traditionally manufactured wood products (pressed wood, fiberboard, etc.), standard cabinets are typically assembled with glue that contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can off-gas into the air you breathe for up to two years.
Green cabinets are built with sustainably sourced materials like solid, formaldehyde-free wood, recycled wood, reclaimed wood, FSC-certified wood, or even bamboo. They’re also made with safe, non-toxic glues and finishes that won’t off-gas and compromise your health.
It should be noted, however, that even though bamboo is a green, highly renewable resource, it’s important to choose bamboo products (whether it’s cabinetry, flooring, or backsplash tiles) with care — high demand has led to clear-cutting of old-growth forests and an increased use of fertilizers and pesticides in China, the world’s main bamboo supplier.
Energy and Water Conservation
Conventional kitchen faucets and appliances are high-energy hogs that waste a considerable amount of water, electricity, and non-renewable natural gas every single day. An eco-friendly kitchen features a low-flow faucet and dishwasher along with energy-efficient appliances that require far less power to cook your meals or keep your leftovers cold.
When looking for a low-flow faucet, look for the EPA’s WaterSense label. Using a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute, a WaterSense faucet reduces water flow by at least 30 percent without sacrificing performance.
When choosing energy-efficient appliances, look for models that have the ENERGY STAR seal of approval. As the most efficient kitchen appliances available, ENERGY STAR products help reduce your energy bills and shrink your carbon footprint.
Eco-Friendly Details, Too
From energy-efficient windows and LED bulbs to zero-VOC paint on the walls and non-toxic grout in your tiled backsplash, almost every detail of your new build or kitchen renovation can be made greener along the way.
And remember, going green doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing endeavor. Including just a few eco-friendly design elements in your new kitchen can make a difference — for the planet, your wallet, and your health.