Some girls dream about their perfect wedding, but I have spent the last 20 years dreaming about my perfect kitchen. I’ve got a book (well, more of a shoebox) where I keep my green kitchen design ideas that I hope to one day incorporate into my perfect kitchen.
You see, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. I do a lot of baking, a lot of cooking and a lot of preserving. Around dinner it is where my family gathers to tell me about their day as I put the finishing touches on dinner. It’s the hub of our home really.
For most homes, it’s also the room where a lot of resources are used. Twenty-nine per cent of energy expenditure in the home goes to heating, but appliances in the home account for a considerable 13% of energy use.
As well, a lot of water is used and heated in the kitchen and because it’s often a hub for most households, it has a lot of lighting requirements. So, this makes it a room well worth investing in for green design.
I thought I’d pull out some of the green kitchen ideas I’ve been gathering in my shoebox and share them. For the article, I’ve organized them rather clearly by major area, but I have to admit that in my shoebox the organization is somewhat more random!
1. Appliances – This is where you can save a lot on energy consumption. If your appliances aren’t energy efficient with an EnergySTAR rating, then it might be time to upgrade. It often feels wasteful when you replace an appliance that is working perfectly well with a new product, but in fact the recycling of appliances has become so efficient, it’s worth the trade up. Besides, you might be able to find something used as more efficient appliances have been around for a few years now. Unfortunately, rebates for trading-up to energy efficient appliances ended in February 2012, but tax credits may still be available.
Also, get appliances that meet your needs. There’s no need to get the latest 6-burner state-of-the-art gas stove top with grill if all you ever do is throw pre-made dinners in the microwave.
2. Cabinets – Kitchen cabinets can truly be the main feature of your kitchen. If you’re looking for new cabinets, look to some of the latest eco-friendly materials such as bamboo, which is extremely fast growing. If you want to really add some character, use some reclaimed wood for the cabinets.
If you’re doing a green kitchen renovation, see if you can’t keep your cabinets. This is the most environmentally-friendly option there is. Maybe some new handles and a new finish with a non-toxic stain is all that’s needed! The renovation in this short video does just this. They change pretty much everything else, but they keep the cabinets and yet they look completely different in the renovated kitchen!
3. Countertops – There are many great products for eco-friendly countertops out there; particularly those making use of recycled materials. There are countertops made from recycled glass and concrete, some that are a mixture of recycled and new concrete, butcher block style counter tops made from bamboo, recycled coal fly ash and even recycled newsprint!
If you just want to spruce up an existing counter top, you can simply lay some recycled glass tiles on top to give it a new finish.
4. Floors – Having broken many dishes on hard tile floors, I’m pretty partial to cork flooring in the kitchen. Cork is a renewable resource, and cork flooring is generally made from the leftover bits from other cork products (namely wine corks). It’s also soft under the feet and this can be pretty important as people spend a lot of time standing in kitchens; whether it’s cooking or just gathering at parties.
Some other sustainable flooring materials include bamboo and recycled rubber.
5. Lighting – For me, a kitchen should be nice and bright. Using windows and skylights can help bring lots of natural lighting into a kitchen and reduce the amount of artificial lighting required.
However, for that artificial lighting, it’s smart to look for energy efficient fixtures, or at the very least, consider replacing existing light bulbs with LED light bulbs as they can provide nearly 80% energy savings over an incandescent bulb.
6. Faucet – Using a low-flow faucet on your kitchen sink can mean you use three times less water without compromising the pressure at all. However, I just added to my shoebox of ideas, the smart touch technology faucet. I know that I have on many occasions found myself with my hands full and the tap running and I wince at the water just pouring down the sink, even if it’s only a few seconds. New technology, however, enables a simple touch on any part of the faucet to turn it on or off. Brilliant!
7. Usable space – I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about how I use my kitchen space. This is obviously different for every person, but it’s a really good idea to go through this though process when considering your design, as this too can help in creating a greener kitchen. This is what I’ve come up with, but please note that although I’m an ardent kitchen user, I’m not a designer so these are drawn only from my own personal experiences:
Waste disposal has to be easily accessible from the kitchen. It seems as though most waste is generated from the kitchen, so having a space close by will only help encourage efficient recycling and compost collection.
A pantry is a must. This might not apply for everyone, but as I make a lot of my own home preserves, and keep a 25kg bag of flour on hand to cover the significant amounts of baking I do, a pantry is a must for me. Ideally, it would have some storage boxes for my home grown vegetables as well.
Finally, my green kitchen needs to be a natural gathering place. I think it’s important for me to have spaces where my family can gather in the kitchen. Bar-style counters are a good example of this. Somewhere where my son can sit and play with play dough or do some coloring while I’m cooking, or later do his homework for instance. It means we are company for each other, but it also means we’re not lighting two rooms and therefore use less energy.
I hope that one day my box of green kitchen design ideas gets properly sorted and some of them become a reality. I’m in no rush though as it seems that with each passing year technologies improve and there are more incredible options out there that enable you to reuse materials and save energy.