If you are planning on doing an eco-friendly whole-kitchen remodeling project, this article is intended to provide an overview and hopefully some useful ideas to incorporate into your design plans. The first bullet point below: ‘Kitchen size’ obviously mainly applies if you are building a new house from scratch – however, the first two footnoted articles do offer some worthwhile insight which is rarely thought about. Except for the above instances, this article might seem kind of dry unless you are simply into sustainable kitchen design, so don’t feel at all guilty if you skip reading it : )
Make Sustainability a Factor During Project Planning
- Kitchen size: New construction of an eco-kitchen first takes into consideration the kitchen size needed. The market-driven interest in size for the sake of size creates a vicious financial and resource-wasting cycle. Buyers spend more on their homes, more to heat and cool them, more to clean them and more to fill them with possessions (1). The size of a dwelling significantly affects the size of its ecological footprint. House size affects the amount of materials and embodied energy in a new house, as well as the amount of materials and embodied energy to maintain the house, and the amount of energy used to heat, cool and light the house. (2) Unnecessarily large kitchens require correspondingly more natural resources and materials to build and also more energy to heat and cool, than moderately sized kitchens. An eco-kitchen floor plan size is designed to be sufficient and efficient, vs. excessively large.
- Kitchen weatherization: Although it can be hard to spend money on things no one will notice, such as new thermal windows, door seals, ceiling and wall insulation, the rewards of weatherization go beyond energy efficiency and ‘saving the planet,’ ” Taylor says. “Thermal comfort is really important to human health and happiness. So if you’re opening up walls in order to renovate, definitely insulate tightly while you have the walls open. Replace old windows, and seal all the air gaps.” (3) An eco-kitchen is well insulated with particular attention to attic insulation, wall insulation, door seals and thermal windows.
- LEED certification for cabinets and counters: Before building a new home or remodeling a kitchen look into LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Plan for LEED certification on projects. LEED certifications are earned in accordance to a rating system for the sustainability of the design, construction, and maintenance and operations of a building. (4)
Reduce* unnecessary kitchen construction aspects: The process of reducing begins with an examination of what you are using, and what it is used for. (5) For example, having open shelving (for storing or displaying glassware and dishware) will eliminate materials used in making fully boxed-in wall cabinets. Using kitchen cabinet curtains on some or all base cabinets will reduce the amount of solid wood, or particle board and wood veneers which go into the making of cabinet doors. Before beginning construction or a renovation for an eco-kitchen plan to include ways which reduce the amount of materials needed. Use principles of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle‘ and the ‘waste hierarchy‘.
Sustainable Materials – What they are & Where to find them
- Sustainably sourced kitchen construction materials:
a) Locally Harvested Lumber: The best choice for the source of wood for kitchen cabinets is locally harvested lumber, rough cut and milled by a local sawmill, and then made into cabinets by a local cabinet maker. Nowadays, more and more woodworkers, builders and DIYers are buying and using wood that comes from local trees sawn into lumber at a local sawmill. (6)
b) Reclaimed wood: Another sustainable wood source is the use of recycled wood. Reclaimed wood is recycling. (7) “Reusing lumber is one of the best choices for the environment… This is a step above Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified lumber. With reclaimed lumber we make use of a product already manufactured and, in many cases, keep that product from going to a landfill.” (8)
c) Salvaged cabinets: Yet another sustainable solution is using salvaged wood and/or salvaged wood cabinets. Many new cabinets are made from particle board, which contains formaldehyde, a toxin that can cause eye, nose and respiratory irritation, and even cancer. New solid wood cabinets may be safer but are expensive. Consider the green option: Building around salvaged kitchen items like these (wood cabinets). (9)
d) Chain of Custody Certified Lumber: Also sustainable is using Chain of Custody Certified wood for your kitchen. Chain of Custody Certified wood products have a logo on them. The authentic logo of a Chain of Custody Certification means everyone who touches it from the forest to the shelf is certified and regularly audited to ensure they are compliant. If it does not have a Chain of Custody Certification scheme logo on it don’t buy it, or better still ask the store manager or designer why they don’t have any Chain of Custody Certified timber products. (10) FSC Chain-of-Custody certification https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certified_wood traces the path of products from forests through the supply chain, verifying that FSC-certified material is identified or kept separated from non-certified material throughout the chain. (11)
e) Sustainable Countertops: Granite countertops are trendy, but most are made from rock mined in ecologically devastating ways and shipped across the world. (12) Ecosystems sustain human life as well as plant and animal life. The mining or quarrying process for these natural materials often irreparably damages ecosystems. And, because of their weight, it takes an enormous amount of energy to move these slabs from quarry to store to your kitchen. The most sustainable countertop materials are recycled glass, paper, concrete or wood. (13) We also like tile.