Achieving a green kitchen remodel (we're talking eco-friendly here, not color) isn't hard to do. It also doesn't need to meet some arbitrary standard to be considered "green", only yours. So with that, let's examine 5 ways to make your kitchen remodel a little easier on both your home's and the planet's environment.
There's no shortage of options when it comes to flooring materials, although wood has long been a popular choice particularly for kitchens. You might think that wood, by itself, is a green choice since it's from a renewable resource and for the most part, you'd be right. But there are ways to make it an even "greener" option, depending on the choices you make.
A Brazilian Cherry floor that's sourced from South America may look great but it requires more energy, mainly for transportation, to get that wood to your location. Using wood that's cut and processed from a locally regional forest would consume less transportation energy.
Depending on where you live, locally sourced wood may or may not be readily available. You can check with wood floor installers or lumber dealers in your area to see if any local sources are available.
Bamboo grows and matures quickly, in a fraction of the time that hardwood trees do. It also spawns new growth from the remnants of the previously harvested bamboo "culms" (the "trunk" of the bamboo plant). In this way, the plant regenerates itself unlike most tree species that must be replanted.
Because it's primarily natural, it's also biodegradable, and can be reduced to its natural elements once its useful life is over. That's a better option than something like vinyl, that will occupy landfill space for generations to come.
Stone, wood, laminate, glass, solid surface...if you can name it, it's probably been made into a countertop. Among the myriad of choices, there are some that stand out as being greener than others.
GlassSLAB uses 100% recycled glass and porcelain (ever wonder where those old sinks and toilets end up?) combined with a resin to form a countertop surface.
IceStone® is a combination of recycled post-consumer glass and concrete. The company that makes IceStone® also works hard to be a good environmental citizen by using green building practices in their production process.
PaperStone® countertops are made from 50% to 100% post-consumer recycled paper and a non-petroleum phenolic resin. The end result of this combination is a smooth hard surface.
How do cabinets go green? In the materials used to make them of course.
Lyptus is a highly renewable hardwood that resembles mahogany but it's grown on plantations specifically for commercial purposes so there's no deforestation of tropical rain forests. It also grows and matures much more quickly than other hardwood trees making it very renewable.
Paints with low or no VOCs are good for the planet but they're even better for you and your home. Paints made with solvents and other toxic materials "off-gas" fumes for a period of time after the paint is applied. The off-gassing process is what you smell for days or weeks after you've applied it to the walls or cabinets. These fumes can be irritating, particularly for those with sensitive allergies.
There are paints that use natural materials instead of chemical solvents for their base constituents and pigments. Products made by Green Planet Paints, Yolo Colorhouse, Mythic Paint, Bioshield and AFM Safecoat are all aimed at making the paints you use and your home a healthier place to breathe.
Reusing products like cabinets, sinks and doors is another way to get a green kitchen remodel. If you can reuse some of the fixtures you currently have you're preserving resources and avoiding unecessary waste. But what if you simply want new items, for a change of style, or you just need to replace your old ones because they're worn out?
One alternative to buying brand new is to check out Habitat for Humanity's ReStores. Habitat's ReStores offer used and surplus building materials that have been donated by people and institutions that no longer have use for them. The products are sold at low cost and the proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity's efforts to build new housing.
Even if you're gutting your kitchen and buying all new products you can still do your part to help the environment. Are those cabinets that you don't need still in good shape? Donate them to a Habitat ReStore. They'll avoid the landfill and get a new lease on life from someone who can use them.
As you can see, there's more than one way to achieve a green kitchen, and it doesn't always involve buying new products.
Going green is good for the planet which is ultimately good for all of us. But it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition, and there's no green-police keeping score. Choosing just one of the options mentioned above is a step in the right direction.
When it comes to choosing green products, there's no right or wrong choice because there's no absolute "green standard". Some products and remodeling decisions are just more green than others.
A reasonable and balanced approach in going green is doing what works for you. After all, it's your money and it's not up to you alone to save the planet. So enjoy your green kitchen, however you go about it.