We can all do our part to improve the environmental friendliness of our homes, and a great place to start is the kitchen. The kitchen is a multi-purpose room. We gather in kitchens to share family meals, or to entertain friends and guests. We use the space to prepare nutritious foods. For many families, the kitchen is also the ideal place to do homework, pay bills, or answer mail.
Choosing to renovate your kitchen allows you the chance to make all the changes you need to better accommodate your family. Many people list the environment among their chief concerns when renovating a kitchen, and rightfully so. There is no better time to improve the environmental friendliness of your home than during a renovation. What follows are six suggestions for ways that you can “green” your kitchen.
Get an Eco-Friendly Fridge
The refrigerator is probably the electrical appliance that sees the most use day in, and day out. For families, it can seem like someone is always standing around with the door hanging open, scanning for something to eat. Is there a way to lessen the amount of energy being wasted by this heavy-duty appliance?
Actually, there are several. For starters, you should always look for Energy Star rated appliances. These are appliances that have passed a strict set of guidelines which prove them to be making the best possible use of the energy they require. Often, Energy Star refrigerators will have digital temperature controls which allow more precise control than the old-style dials. They will also have highly sophisticated seals on the door to prevent cold air from escaping. Some even have alarms to let you know that the door has not closed all the way (very helpful for families with young kids.)
Another feature to look for would be a refrigerator freezer combo with the freezers on the bottom. This tends to be a much more efficient set up because cold air sinks. The unit does not have to work against the natural inclination of the air, and the cold air that is already present is less likely to escape.
Be Smart About Dishes
Looking for an energy efficient and responsible way to clean your dishes? You might be surprised to learn that your best bet is a dishwasher.
Many people have the mistaken impression that using a dishwasher is less environmentally friendly than hand washing your dishes. In reality, we are far more likely to waste water and overuse soap or other chemicals while hand washing dishes, than when letting an energy efficient dishwasher do the work for us.
An Energy Star dishwasher will use less water than its older counterparts (and much less than the average hand-washer), less soap, and less energy to heat and sanitize the dishes. Many of these new dishwashers can be programmed to wash only a single rack, meaning you won't have to use as much energy for a small load. The technology has come a long way in the past decade or so, and homes wanting to go green should take advantage.
Use Recycled Materials
You may not immediately realize how many opportunities there are to include some recycled building materials into your renovation. Inexpensive kitchen cabinets often contain recycled materials, and therefore have less of an overall impact on the environment. Recycled wood, metal, and even paper composite can be used to build cabinets for much cheaper than it might be with brand new materials.
Countertops are another area where recycled materials can be used to great effect. One of the more popular (and attractive!) choices is a mixture of concrete and recycled glass. The entire countertop is sealed to prevent staining and to provide a smooth surface.
Use Sustainable Materials
There are many concerns with using some building materials like hardwood, because they may contribute to deforestation. Certainly, there are wood mills and logging operations that use only sustainable methods of wood production, but there are also some alternatives to consider.
The easiest place to include sustainable building materials in your new kitchen is the floor. One popular choice is bamboo, which is actually a fast growing grass. Because this plant replenishes itself so quickly, it is very easy for it to be responsibly sourced and managed. Plus, as building materials go, it's strong, durable and attractive.
Another option would be recycled plastic. Interlocking tiles made from recycled plastics make for a unique look and character, while also reducing waste. Certain types of these tiles can be used for outdoor kitchens too.
Get Energy Efficient Lighting
Most kitchens come standard with incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. These were popular in the past, but we have much better options available today. A kitchen renovation is the perfect time to swap out your old light fixtures for newer, more responsible choices.
The old style lights can be energy hogs, and the bulbs require regular changing. By including CFLs (Compact Flourescent Lamps) or LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) into your kitchen, you will substantially reduce the energy draw from your lighting, not to mention the added benefit of a lower electric bill.
Keep these suggestions in mind as you plan out your new kitchen. Environmentally friendly products, appliances and building materials are so much more prevalent today than they were a decade or two ago, and there's never been a better time to make these responsible changes. Happy planning!