If you’re remodeling your kitchen, this is also the perfect time to make an additional transformation: You can make your kitchen more environmentally friendly as you remodel it. It’s important to be intentional about this, if you decide you want to keep things eco-friendly.
When you’re choosing the new cabinets, countertops, light fixtures, paint and more that you want in your kitchen, you might focus on style or function (or both). You can still complete an environmentally friendly remodeling job without compromising these priorities, as you’ll have plenty of green options to choose from.
To make the process of making your kitchen more environmentally friendly as easy as possible, we’ve created the list below as a handy guide to just some of the ways you can be “greener” throughout your kitchen remodel. Completely redoing your kitchen can be an overwhelming process to begin with, so having an idea of the direction you’re going in can certainly help!
5 Tips for an Environmentally Friendly Remodel
Look for Safer Cabinet Options
If you’re installing new cabinets, you might be looking for some that match your countertops, or you may want to get some that fit the overall style of your kitchen. However, while it’s good to be aware of the elements of design, this isn’t always compatible with eco-friendliness.
Typically, cabinets are made from plywood, pressed wood or fiberboard. When these types of cabinets are constructed, glue that contains formaldehyde and other chemicals is often used. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen that can still be found in the air once the glue has dried, which means that you’ll be breathing in formaldehyde (daily!) in your kitchen.
Fortunately, there are other types of cabinets available that don’t contain any formaldehyde at all. Safer woods include solid wood, recycled wood, FSC-certified wood and bamboo. Before buying cabinets, be sure to do your research about what each particular type of cabinet is made of. Be on the lookout for harmful chemicals, and avoid them if at all possible!
Choose VOC-Free Paints
If you’re going to be painting your kitchen or the cabinets you’ve chosen, look for paint that’s VOC-free. This means that the paint is free of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals that can be released as gases. Following their release, they can have negative effects on your health, potentially causing anything from mild headaches to cancer.
When you use paint that contains VOCs, the fumes can stick around, so their negative effects might persist even after the paint has dried. Keeping a painted area ventilated is not enough to protect yourself from VOCs.
It’s important for us all to realize that paint containing VOCs isn’t the only option. There are specific VOC-free options available, so you can prevent those terrible health effects that these chemicals can bring. Products with fewer chemicals are better for the environment and for your health, so by using them, you’ll be taking care of yourself and the planet!
Unfortunately, paint isn’t the only product that contains VOCs. Finishes, stains and coatings can also contain them, so before buying products like this, be sure to look for VOC-free or low-VOC options.
Select an Eco-Friendly Countertop Material
Not all kitchen countertops are made from sustainable materials. You’ll have to look specifically for environmentally friendly countertops, if that’s important to you. Luckily, there are plenty of beautiful countertops available that happen to be better for the environment than others. Some of these countertops are made from recycled materials, which is one of the best ways to be more environmentally friendly.
Here are just a few environmentally friendly countertop choices you might want to investigate:
IceStone, granite, and Vetrazzo recycled glass countertops
Richlite and PaperStone recycled paper countertops
Caesarstone natural quartz countertops
ALKEMI-acrylic or ALKEMI-polyester countertops made from post-industrial scrap waste
Aside from being better for the environment, these four choices are more unique than many traditional countertop options. Because they’re made of recycled material, they look different than your standard countertop would. Their unique style will most likely add a bit of extra flair to your kitchen!
Install Energy Efficient Lighting
Another way to make your kitchen more green is by installing energy efficient lighting. While doing a kitchen remodel, you’ll likely be replacing your light fixtures anyway, so now is your chance to swap traditional bulbs for LED lights! This is one of the best ways to reduce your energy usage.
You can add LED bulbs to virtually any type of lighting fixture, and you can also buy integrated LED light fixtures with bulbs already built-in. In addition to helping out the environment, a switch to LEDs will enable you to reduce your energy bill each month, so you’ll end up saving both money and energy.
Consider Hiring an Eco-Friendly Contractor
If you truly want to make your remodeling job eco-friendly, it can be helpful to consult an expert. There are contractors who have extensive experience with doing environmentally friendly renovations, and if they specialize in this, they’ll have the necessary knowledge to make the project go smoothly.
If you only need help with some areas of your renovation, you can find contractors that can help you complete those parts. Just make sure you’re upfront with each contractor by letting them know that you want your renovation to be an eco-friendly one.
Even if you’re handling most of the remodeling on your own, you should look for environmentally friendly companies to buy your supplies and materials from. Some companies may not be 100 percent environmentally friendly, but they may offer more green options than others. If you’re not sure what eco-friendly options a certain company has to offer, just ask!
Keep the Chemicals Out!
Choosing to undertake an environmentally friendly remodel is a great idea for both you and the environment. The biggest benefit is that the environmentally friendly materials you add to your home will contain fewer chemicals than more traditional materials do. Keep in mind that traditional paints, cabinets and other supplies and fixtures almost always contain potentially harmful chemicals, and their effects can linger long after you’ve used the supplies or installed the fixtures in your kitchen.