"Caring for our shared environment is something innate that evolves over decades."
My own journey started while spending summer holidays at my grandmother’s cottage on a pristine spring fed lake in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. There I first experienced the world’s “not in my back yard” syndrome - but in reverse: Strangers were dumping in “my” backyard. Dozens of fishermen from neighboring towns would launch their boats using the public access ramp. I'd watch in dismay as some (not all) would throw their empty soda cans and garbage overboard. It was something they'd probably never do in their own back yard.
After college and marriage I wanted to live in a way which I then thought was as sustainable as possible. My two daughters were born at home. We used cloth diapers, provided homemade baby food, homemade bread, homemade sprouts, homemade school lunches, vegetarian meals, etc.
Because of concern for our environment I chose to work for a firm selling industrial recycling equipment, and later on for another firm that made mulch and topsoil from yard waste. Concurrently I served ten years as event coordinator on the board of a local not-for-profit water quality advocacy group.
The first two eco-kitchens:
In 2002 my husband and I decided to build a house, so it was necessary to clear some live trees from the home site – arg. Rather than burn the oak, cedar and hickory logs (as customary) we harvested them to make all the flooring, trim, and wall paneling. First the logs were rough cut with a portable sawmill, then air dried, next kiln dried and finally milled – a lot of work but worth it. I designed the kitchen and a local carpenter made the cabinets and counters from the hickory.
My next ‘sustainable kitchen’ design project in 2011 was to completely renovate a 14’ x 14’ kitchen. The thirty-five year old original press board cabinets had been severely water damaged, so they and all the counters were completely removed. Materials for the new cabinets and counters included a total of a few sheets of plywood, locally harvested cedar lumber for the face frames, drawer fronts and open shelving. Cabinet curtains with special curtain rods and brackets were used instead of cabinet doors. Porcelain tile over cement board went on the counter tops. I applied the water base polyurethane clear coat on the shelving and face frames. It turned out to be a functional and lovely kitchen. The cost was a total of $3,500 for materials, a carpenter’s labor and a tile pro’s labor.
Up to present:
Both daughters are grown, thus I have time to dedicate to my eco-kitchen passion. Initially my interest was mainly in sustainable kitchen remodeling, but over the years has broadened to include some truly amazing energy efficient appliance innovations which help to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of any kitchen.
I know you and many others are concerned about climate change and are trying to figure out what to do, and then do all you can do. Rising CO2 is in all of our back yards even though the power plants themselves are not.
Most of us are co-contributors to the rising CO2 level every time we use our kitchen conveniences: refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, hot water, etc. The materials used to make our conventional kitchen cabinets and counters are harvested, transported and manufactured using mostly fossil fuels. Our culture has such a tangled web of fossil fuel reliance. We as consumers can start undoing our own reliance. Our small steps add up.
Barbara Ferguson, Green Kitchens
Footnote: The following article is a short story about our family's experience during the recent hurricane season and how the need for more kitchen resilience came into sharp focus: