In a kitchen design industry that is steadily going green, there are many simple ways to save energy without breaking the bank. There seems to be a general feeling that “going green” equals “sacrifice;” spending more for fewer and less attractive options. This may have been true several years ago, but with most of our technology moving rapidly in eco-friendly directions, there is a widening range of solutions for any desired shade of green. Let's look at some basic ideas for green kitchen design that apply whether you are remodeling or simply looking to save on energy bills.
The simplest way to go green in a kitchen is to replace those old energy hogs, the appliances, with newer models that comply with green standards. In terms of energy consumption, refrigerators are second only to space heating and cooling. A modern fridge with an Energy Star label uses 10-50% less energy and water than standard models, reducing the impact on both the environment and your wallet. Different models have varying degrees of energy efficiency, even with an Energy Star, so be sure to compare labels.
Improve Air Quality
Ventilation is a major concern, especially now that homes are being built to nearly air-tight standards. Installing a range hood is an effective and relatively inexpensive way to improve air quality in the home, removing toxic fumes like carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide that are emitted by gas stoves. Using eco-friendly finishing products also helps reduce exposure to harmful toxins, or Volatile Organic Compounds, in the air. Look for adhesives, finishes, caulks and sealers with “No VOCs” on the label.
Use Recycled Or Renewable Resources
There are a number of companies out there that make high-quality products from recycled or rapidly renewable resources. One such company, Richlite, makes eco-friendly countertops out of paper. Other options for green countertops include previously installed tiles and quartz composite. For flooring, experts suggest bamboo, cork, and clay tile, which are made from easily renewable resources and emit no VOCs. Linoleum is also making a comeback, due to its green properties and durability.
Reduce Water Usage
Faucets in many new homes are being provided with aerators, which inject small air bubbles into the water to reduce usage while maintaining water pressure. Aerators are a simple and inexpensive way to go green in the kitchen, so check to see whether your faucets are already equipped. Another good idea is to look into tankless or on-demand water heaters. They heat the water only as it is needed, saving hundreds of gallons of water per year and using up to 20% less energy than standard heaters.
Maximize Low Energy Lighting
Lighting can be tricky, with the technology evolving as rapidly as it is. LED lights are extremely efficient, but because they are so new they are not widely available and can be quite pricey. For those of us who cannot afford them, the best course is to maximize use of dimmable fluorescents. Motion sensors are a great, inexpensive way to save energy and are easy to install. Avoid using recessed can lights; they are notoriously wasteful unless properly sealed and installed. The simplest and smartest course is a practice called Daylighting, which takes full advantage of the natural light entering a building.
Do What Works Best For You
Going green in the kitchen does not necessarily mean buying new things to replace the old and inefficient. The greenest approach of all is trying to work with what you already have, to reduce the amount of waste you generate in the process. You can buy food locally to cut out the polluting transport trucks, grow your own herbs and spices, use a lid to bring water to a boil quicker. Small actions add up to produce big effects, whether or not you're spending more!