by Blake Herzog
When it’s time to update your kitchen there’s a bunch of factors to balance, including style, functionality and cost. There’s one more — sustainability.
In some cases this last dimension can add to your expense but will save money in the long run, while others can be a fraction of the cost of other alternatives.
These are just a few of the many steps you can take to make your next remodel more eco-friendly.
Invest in energy-efficient appliances
We don’t need to scrap well-functioning refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers before their time to be decommissioned (and recycled as much as possible), but when it is time look for Energy Star-certified products, which may well have a presence in your home already and save on electric and water usage.
Beyond that, it’s a good idea to explore alternative versions of large appliances like induction stoves, touchless faucets and convection ovens that will keep you at the vanguard of eco- and budget-friendly kitchens for years to come.
Use nontoxic paint
Nontoxic paint uses raw, natural ingredients including clay, citrus, food-grade proteins, plant oils and dyes, minerals and water to create products with very low to nonexistent levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contain chemicals easily released at room temperature and can increase indoor and outdoor air pollution with the potential to cause short-term irritation or long-term harm.
Look for paint (and other household products) certified as UL GREENGUARD, which signifies a product with very low VOC emissions, or GREENGUARD Gold, which has stricter standards and tests for more chemicals.
Choose recycled products and ingredients
These can be used almost everywhere in your kitchen — reclaimed wood for counters and cabinets, recycled glass and paper composite for countertops and recycled tiles for flooring, reusing drawer and cabinet pulls from old furniture, repurposing old iron or copper bowls into eye-catching sinks, upcycling vintage cake tins, wine bottles or even auto parts as light fixtures — use your imagination to keep things out of the landfill and lower your shipping needs.
Select sustainable flooring materials
The word “linoleum” doesn’t exactly have a 21st-century ring to it, but turns out true linoleum is entirely made of biodegradable materials including linseed oil, tree resin, wood flour and ground limestone. With proper care it’s an incredibly durable surface, and it won’t have an extended afterlife in the landfill once it is replaced.
It’s becoming harder and harder to find, however, so other options include bamboo (though its transportation from tropical environments does enlarge its carbon footprint), cork and engineered hardwood.
Reface your cabinets
Outdated cabinets and drawers are often the prime motivation for a kitchen remodel, but if their boxes are in good shape it’s much cheaper and friendlier to the environment to replace their drawers and fronts and keep as much of the rest as you can.
In many cases the hinges and hardware can be saved while you create a radically different look for your kitchen.