Going Green in the Kitchen

Instruments on wooden table with copy space
Annette Thomson of Washington, D.C., wants to green up her kitchen remodeling project. "I want to replace old vinyl flooring and add Energy Star appliances," she says. "Is there anything else I can do?"

Thomson is on the right track. Going green in the kitchen means replacing vinyl with more sustainable materials and choosing energy-saving appliances. But taking a healthy approach to remodeling also includes designing your kitchen to make day-to-day green living easier.

Green upgrades not only save money and energy, they can also add to home value. Some green improvements offer a return of more than 200 percent

of the investment, according to a survey of Realtors by HomeGain.

Whether you're planning a full-on kitchen remodel or just a few projects, here are some options at different price points that will help you start going green in your kitchen.

Going Green: Ways to Save Money

Cook at home. Cooking at home is greener than regularly consuming heavily packaged takeout or processed foods, and it costs a whole lot less. As you design your showplace kitchen, think practically: How can you make food prep easier? Adding or expanding a pantry to store ingredients is one way to go green in the kitchen. So is making room for traditional kitchen activities such as canning.

Consider recycled building materials. If your kitchen remodel includes replacing doors, windows, or cabinets, you'll save a lot by sourcing them from community-based collections. Habitat for HumanityReStores sell previously owned building materials at anywhere from
25% to 90% off retail, says Carla Mullen, volunteer coordinator at the Charlottesville, Va. ReStore.

"Shopping secondhand really reduces your carbon footprint," Mullen says. "Buying recycled kitchen items reduces fossil fuel consumption by keeping materials in the community. There is little remanufacturing and packaging associated with them, too." The items themselves may not be green (i.e., paint might not be low-VOC), but keeping them out of the landfill is certainly more earth-friendly. Mullen reports that more than 2,800 tons of usable items have been diverted from landfills since her ReStore opened six and a half years ago.

Going Green: Ways to Conserve Energy and Reduce Kitchen Waste

Bag it. Reusable shopping totes are gaining in popularity because they conserve trees (paper bags) or oil (plastic bags). To making reusable bags more convenient, set up a dedicated place for them in your remodeled kitchen. Hang them from decorative hooks, or fold them into a wicker basket or drawer.

Compost. A green kitchen should include space for collecting food scraps for composting, which reduces overall kitchen waste. It's also the secret to a healthy landscape. All you need is a pot with a lid. If you're remodeling the kitchen, construct a place for a trash-compactor-size composter, such as those found at Nature's Mill.

Going Green: Ways to Conserve Natural Resources

Save water. Reducing water use can be as simple (and cheap) as adding a faucet aerator to your kitchen sink. Upgrading to a more efficient dishwasher can save enough water each week to wash two loads of laundry, according to Energy Star.

Nix paper. Paper towels and paper napkins require significant amounts of raw materials and water to produce. Design your kitchen to include a place to store and dispose of reusable washrags. Try placing a slide-out laundry bin under your sink or inside a cabinet, for example.

Opt for sustainable flooring. If you're ready to replace the floors in your kitchen, choose a renewable resource such as cork or bamboo. Sustainably grown wood with the
FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification, or salvaged wood flooring, are other green options.

Thomson is excited about the possibilities for going green in her new kitchen. "I'm rethinking our kitchen space to include bamboo floors, more pantry storage, and a composter," she says. "The compost will be great for the front flowerbed."
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