11 Eco-Friendly Ways to Refresh Your Kitchen Cabinets

window flanked by kitchen cabinets - eco-friendly kitchen cabinets

If you’re browsing around looking for online kitchen cabinets, but you aren’t finding what you’re looking for, or would prefer a more sustainable option, there are lots of ways to freshen up your kitchen’s appearance without breaking the bank or harming the environment.

Demolition waste from construction and renovation continue to pile up in our landfills. Old toilets, tired kitchen countertops and cabinets, forlorn shower stalls and much more all end up sitting in landfills if they aren’t repurposed.

For that reason, as you begin to plan your own renovations, consider searching for salvageable materials from other renovation projects. Most people are glad to give away their old stuff for free! Throughout the warmer months, these things often end up on the curb or on buy and sell websites and groups, and some waste facilities will even let you take a look at what they’ve recently taken in.

Modifying or Replacing Your Cabinets Sustainably

The most eco-friendly and often the least expensive option for giving your kitchen a facelift is to modify your existing kitchen cabinets. Refinishing, repainting, replacing doors or handles, or removing the doors entirely are all stylish options for working with what you’ve got.

There are also sustainable material options when it comes to replacing the countertops that sit on your kitchen cabinets. These include granite and quartz, which occur naturally in the environment and are harvested and finished for use in your kitchen. Other alternatives are glass, cement and porcelain, which are often recycled now to promote sustainability, and come in an almost endless variety of colors and textures.

If you do decide to buy new cabinets and do a complete kitchen tear-out, be sure to choose sustainable materials such as bamboo or solid wood that’s been responsibly harvested. Avoid pressure-treated or chemically treated wood, which isn’t grown sustainably and also releases toxic chemicals such as urea and formaldehyde into the immediate environment (and the environment in which it was produced)!

Other eco-friendly updates that you can make to your kitchen include adding Energy Star appliances, low-flow faucets and energy efficient windows and doors, and completing a fresh paint job with non-toxic paints. You can also salvage repurposed furniture and building materials for a variety of DIY projects.

What to Do With Your Old Cabinets: 11 Options

Maybe you’ve found the kitchen cabinets of your dreams, but you’re feeling guilty about parting with the old ones? Well, Habitat for Humanity often takes old building materials for free to be used within their own building projects or repurposed in their ReStore.

You could also try listing your old cabinets on Kijiji, Craigslist, Bunz or The Freecycle Network, or in a Facebook trading group—but if no one will come and take them off your hands, here are 11 clever ideas as to how to repurpose your old kitchen cabinets in other rooms of your home.

Use One for Extra Storage

See where else in your home you could use a little extra storage. Could you hang an old cabinet in your bathroom or laundry room? In the basement?

Convert Them Into a Workstation

Repurpose your old kitchen cabinets and countertops into a workstation for a home office or kids’ craft room. You can strategically place your cabinets with leg gaps between them and add old countertops in order to create multiple workstations.

Create an Accent Table

Create an accent table with storage space for your entryway or living room by adding some feet or legs to a bank of cabinets. You can also refinish these with a coat of paint or varnish and update the hardware; then, add a piece of an old countertop to the top of the bank for a smooth surface, if needed. Another option is to create a distressed look by using sandpaper to rub off bits of paint in strategically selected places.

Turn One Into a Kids’ Toy

You can actually turn an old cabinet into a play kitchen or play tool bench for your little ones! You may want to add a piece of an old countertop, an old faucet or other hardware to your DIY creation, along with additional creative touches such as a painted-on oven with some fake knobs. Following that, hang up the kids’ toy pots and pans or toy tools, and put their pretend foodstuffs inside the tall “fridge.”

Move Them to a Garage, Shed or Workshop

old white cupboards - eco-friendly kitchen cabinets

Old kitchen cabinets make excellent storage cabinets for a garage, shed or workshop, and there’s no need to freshen up their appearance. They’ll come in particularly handy when you want to add vertical storage, as you can do so by rehanging them or stacking them and securing them to a wall.

Remove the Doors for Open Shelving

Remove the doors from a set of cabinets to create open shelving that can be used for so many things, such as shoes in an entryway or mudroom, household supplies in your laundry room, or toys or books in a bedroom. The possibilities are virtually endless!

Fashion a Games Cupboard

A double-door cabinet could be turned into a games cupboard with a dartboard and a little shelf to store darts inside.

Invest in Some Chalkboard Paint

Get creative with chalkboard paint, while using an old cabinet as your canvas!

A coat on the outside of a cabinet door could be a great place for a chores list, or perhaps a daily or weekly activity schedule, and the necessary equipment for the chores or activities could be stored right behind the door. Alternatively, there’s the option of removing the cabinet’s painted door altogether and hanging it on its own as a handy spot to make notes or a grocery list.

Make a Bed Frame With Storage Space

You might choose to create a bed frame with storage space from your old kitchen cabinets. These could be configured in a few different ways to create the frame, depending on how much space you have in the bedroom you’ll use it in. However, this option tends to work best with a single bed in a child’s room.

Set up a Bench

A bank of shorter cabinets could be turned into a bench with a chair cushion on top, to be used in an entryway or mudroom. This could also double as a convenient place to tuck away shoes or other small objects.

Flip One Over to Produce a Chest

Finally, you can flip a cabinet over to turn it into a storage chest, or even a fun treasure chest for the kiddos!

A Vast Array of Possibilities

Cabinets of any kind hold endless possibilities for repurposing. Particularly, if they’re made of high-quality solid wood, they can be refinished or painted dozens of times and in an endless number of different ways.

Feature image: Curtis Adams; Image 1: Jessica Lewis

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