Green Kitchen Solutions
Starting a ‘Green’ remodeling project isn’t always easy. You need to select products and appliances that can outlast and use less energy than products that perform the same and have a lower initial cost but have a greater environmental impact.
Fortunately recent trends and an expanding market are helping to lower costs, making it easier to have a green kitchen at a reasonable price.
Unlike most hardwood floors, bamboo is not produced from a tree but an extremely fast growing grass.
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on Earth, it grows 1/3rd faster than the fastest growing trees and can be harvested every 3 to 5 years.
Traditional hardwoods are harvested every 40 to 50 years.
Bamboo flooring combines the inherent renewable characteristics of bamboo with low emission glues and surface coatings. This combination has created a new, and unique environmentally friendly flooring option.
Bamboo is a very durable natural flooring and is produces a harder surface than maple and oak flooring. Bamboo also absorbs more finish below the surface than oak and its not as easy to scratch as oak or maple. During the manufacturing process almost all of the bamboo shoot is utilized. The material that is too small to make flooring planks is used for paper, chopsticks, or toothpicks.
Natural linoleum is an all natural product that produces no harmful VOC’s and is SMART certified as a sustainable product.
The natural bacterial properties of natural linoleum prevent a of variety micro-organisms, including Salmonella, thanks to a process of continual oxidation.
Unlike carpeting, stains will not sink in, and natural linoleum requires nothing more than a dusting or damp mop every so often. The anti-static properties will not only reduce the potential for electric shock, they also make the floor easier to clean because dust and dirt will not adhere to it.
With such a large variety of color choices, you can design patterns by mixing colors, insets and borders to create a totally unique living space.
Cork flooring has been used for years, however it has only recently been manufactured as consumer friendly tiles and planks with snapping lock joints. The increased awareness of environmental issues has led consumers to consider cork as a flooring option.
Cork provides natural thermal insulation and preserves energy and can cut heating bills in half. It is also hypoallergenic and anti-static so it is a great choice for allergy and asthma sufferers. Cork also has the ability to absorb sound and is ideal for apartments with neighbors above and below.
When choosing a countertop, look for Eco-Friendly materials like Untreated Hardwood, Bamboo, Recycled Glass Tile and Recycled Ceramic.
The above mentioned materials are renewable, made from eco-friendly manufacturing processes, and release little to no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). This means that you will be reducing the level of toxic chemicals in your home.
Some manufacturing companies are also creating products that consist of renewable bamboo fiber, post-consumer recycled paper, and water-based resin glue.
Richlite is a countertop made from recycled paper. That’s right – paper. This incredibly dense material is softer than stone and retains heat better, It is durable, stain resistant, bacteria resistant and available in a wide range of colors.
Icestone makes countertops from 100% recycled glass and concrete. These surfaces can also be used for backsplashes, bathroom vanities, table tops, walls and even commercial flooring. Another recycled glass countertop manufacturer, Vetrazzo, even recycles your old countertop.
The ultimate green option is to install a salvaged countertop. Contact local recycling groups or websites and research your options.
Similar to Energy Star, the Forest Stewardship Council has set standards that creates areas for sustainable forestry throughout different biogeographic regions of the United States.
Cabinets created using formaldehyde-free glues and finishes with low volatile organic compounds and FSC certified lumber will produces little or no toxic fumes and provide a sustainable solution to an area of the kitchen you typically wouldn’t imagine going green.
Cabinet boxes are also being manufactured with wheat board and straw board. They are created with agricultural waste left over from farmers’ wheat crops. They also feature formaldehyde-free binders, are durable and rated to exceed the standards set by the American National Standards Institute for the common cabinet box material, medium density particle boards.
Simple Ways to Convert Your Existing Kitchen
If you are in the process of planning a greener kitchen or if you can’t decided to make the investment just yet, here are a few ideas to create a greener kitchen without major renovations or planning.
Adding energy efficient fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
They will use 50% to 90% less energy than similar incandescent are estimated to save $30 to $40 during their lifespan of 10,000 hours over similar conventional bulbs.
Installing an under the counter water purifier that cleans water of contaminants before it reaches your tap has about 10 times the filtering capacity of faucet mounted purifiers. It will also remove odors and bad taste, heavy metals, bacteria, and pesticides.
Recycling is one of the easiest ways to convert your green kitchen. You can simply use a recycling bin, convert an existing cabinet into a space to store your receptacle, or you can install a pull-out cabinet that will hold your bins and will keep the contents organized and out of sight.
Everyone knows that Energy Star appliances reduce energy consumption and cuts the cost on utilities but if you are on a tight budget after a recent kitchen upgrade, replacing your dishwasher and refrigerator should be the first appliances to be replaced.
Energy saving or quick wash cycle dishwashers operate for shorter periods of time, saving water and energy. Dishwashers that include an air-dry option will dry dishes with circulation fans rather than energy draining heating elements.
A refrigerator with improved insulating techniques are estimated around 75% more energy efficient than older refrigerators. A standard newer model will save you around $100 per year versus a model built around 20 years ago, adding an energy-star labeled model will save an additional $20 to $30 per year. Models with the freezer on top also use 10% to 25% less energy than a similar sized side by side model.
Don’t forget lighting! The recent National Kitchen & Bath Assoc. survey showed the new trend for Kitchen lighting is LED (Light Emitting Diode). For those interested in skylights, you can combine the two with the Soelctric Day-Light System. A PV solar panel on the roof is wired to an LED fixture and the light emitted mimics sunlight – it is low in the morning and at dusk and brightest at midday.