The modern kitchen is a home’s hub and highlight. Equal parts cooking area, living room, café, and office, it’s where family and friends hang out, play, eat and work. With its newly expanded role as a vibrant, all-purpose space, the kitchen has earned a facelift. Bigger, airier, and warmer than ever, it has also gone green. From cabinets and countertops to flooring and appliances, you, too, can create a gorgeous kitchen that’s healthier for you and good for the environment.
Clear the Air Indoor air pollution is one of the top five public-health hazards. In fact, interior pollutant levels are two to five times (and even up to 100 times) higher than outdoor pollutant levels. A major offender in the home is formaldehyde, found in pressed wood and adhesives containing urea-formaldehyde resins. Also noxious are paints and stains containing VOCs (volatile organic compounds). When building or remodeling your kitchen, use glues, stains, finishes, and woods that don’t contain these harmful chemicals.
Cabinets There are many green cabinet alternatives, including formaldehyde-free woods like cherry, maple oak and alder (be sure woods are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council), as well sustainable woods like bamboo—which is actually a tough, fast-growing grass that’s stronger than maple. Also on the front lines of cabinetry is wheatboard, a sustainable material made of recycled wheat stalk and straw. Countertops From recycled paper to recycled glass to sustainable wood, there are numerous countertops that are both elegant and efficient. Green options include: IceStone, made of chips of recycled glass in concrete; EuroStone, quartz chips in a resin binder; and ShetkaStone, recycled paper in a formaldehyde-free resin base. Steer clear of granite, a non-renewable resource; once it’s removed from the earth, it’s gone forever.
Flooring Sound-absorbent, soft underfoot, hypoallergenic, and mold resistant, cork is a practical and beautiful flooring alternative for the kitchen. This renewable resource is made from bark that’s peeled off the tree, then allowed to grow back. If you prefer the look of hardwood floors, stick with wood that’s been harvested from sustainable forests. Appliances Choose appliances that have earned the Energy Star, a rating that signifies they’ve passed an energy-efficiency test. These appliances use 10 to 15 percent less energy and water than their non-green counterparts. Also consider switching to an induction cooktop, which uses less energy than gas and electric stoves, and a convection oven, which cooks 25 percent faster than a conventional oven. Keep in mind that topand- bottom freezer/fridge units are more energy efficient than side-by-side models.
Lighting Take advantage of natural light by designing your kitchen with lots of windows (Energy Star-qualified windows are best). Then make the most of natural light by positioning work surfaces and sinks underneath windows. Replace your conventional light bulbs with fluorescent bulbs, which cut energy by 50 percent. Fabrics Use cotton or wool instead of chemically treated manmade fabrics when covering chairs and sofas and accessorizing windows.