We talk a lot about conscious eating in relation to health, but conscious living is equally important for those who want to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. This two part series will prepare you for what to look for when building or remodeling your kitchen as well as sustainable kitchen practices you can partake in to keep your air and water quality at its best and insure that you are doing what you can to not only protect your own health, but the health of the planet as well.
Before getting started on greening your kitchen, it’s good to remember that unnecessary renovating for the sake of making the switch defeats the purpose of getting the most use from what you already own that is in working or usable condition. If something can be fixed with very little expense, it’s better to do that then to buy something new. Of course if you have something that costs the environment more to keep then to dispose of or break up into reusable parts, then it’s perfectly justifiable to replace it.
If you are renovating or starting from the ground up, here are some options to consider.
Bamboo, cork, linoleum and reclaimed wood (meaning it was rescued from construction sites) are all great options. Bamboo is easily regenerated in 3 to 5 years as opposed to the decades it takes for other sources of wood. Linoleum, which is made of linseed oil, is renewable and possibly offers one of the most attractive options in sustainable flooring.
Kitchen Construct Materials
For countertops and cupboards, you can use recycled particleboard or reclaimed wood. As long as you are using some form of recycled material (aluminum, concrete, stone, etc.) to build your kitchen, you are on the right path. Tiles for counter tops or a sink backsplash can be constructed using recycled glass. As for paint, you want to look for non-VOC (volatile organic compounds). VOC’s have been attributed to a number of health problems, affecting the eyes, nose and throat as well as the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.Some have even been attributed to cancer.Inside and outside, they effect the air quality and are one of the contributing factors to city smog.
Built in Appliances
For your built-in appliances, you’ll want to look for those with the ENERGY STAR seal. In 2005, Americans saved over $12 billion on energy bills by using energy star appliances. Energy star options exist for ovens, stoves, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, etc. Dishwashers actually use less water then washing dishes by hand and are a great way to conserve resources.
The more natural lighting you can invite into your kitchen, the better. Skylights are actually quite easy to install and can leave your kitchen free of electrical use during daylight hours. Low energy light bulbs can last 10 times longer then traditional ones. (Compact Fluorescents) can reduce energy consumption by 75%. However, one has to be careful with cleanup if they break because they contain mercury, which gets released into the air. Look for the lowest mercury bulbs to help reduce risk and make sure you read up on safety tips for cleanup. Another option is LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) for areas where low light is sufficient.
These are just a few tips to get started. There are many resources now for selecting materials for an eco kitchen available, including ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Some key things to remember are to look for nontoxic materials that contain recycled content. It’s usually better to buy the more expensive, environmentally friendly option, then something cheap that won’t last long and consequently will need to be replaced. It’s also important to look at the company’s standards overall to make sure that their commitment is in line with your expectations.
In Part II, I will offer you some kitchen usage tips. It’s not enough just to build an eco kitchen, it’s also important to use in the same conscientious way every day if you are truly committed to a more environmentally friendly environment for your family and the earth.
 Nationageographic.com (No date). Renewable flooring materials. Retrieved from http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/renewable-flooring-materials-2907.html
 Epa.gov (No date). Volatile organic compounds. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/iaq/voc.html
 Oilheatamerica.com (No date). Reach for the ENERGY STAR® ... bright advice about energy saving. Retrieved from http://www.oilheatamerica.com/index.mv?screen=energystar
 Kbsa.org.uk (No date). Eco-friendly kitchens. Retrieved from http://www.kbsa.org.uk/kitchen/ecofriendly_kitchens
 Energysource.gov (no date). Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and mercury. Retrieved from