As the green movement has grown, so has the number of options for the kitchen. “So many manufacturers are being brought into the mix,” says designer Carol Kurth of Bedford. “A kitchen is a microcosm of the house as a whole, so it’s a good place to begin.”
Whether you’re doing a complete renovation or just looking to take a few stabs at greening your kitchen, here are some ways to start your carbon diet.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), appliances account for about 17 percent of our household’s energy consumption, with refrigerators leading the pack. Love the look of those sexy, professional-grade products? Bad news: those can rank among the highest energy guzzlers. If you’re looking to go green, push status aside for a moment. Consider your actual needs and select energy-efficient products that meet them. To check the amount of energy an appliance uses, look for the Energy Star rating at energystar.gov, a program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. With the help of Energy Star, Americans saved enough energy in 2007 alone to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 27 million cars, saving $16 billion on their utility bills. Bosch, for example, which has been named the 2009 Energy Star Partner of the Year for Appliances by the DOE and the EPA, is the only U.S. manufacturer to have the Energy Star qualification on all its product models in every major appliance category the program rates. Bosch’s Evolution and Integra dishwashers are among the most energy-efficient—and quiet—in the industry.
To save water without sacrificing water pressure, add an inexpensive flow-reducer to kitchen sinks. And while you’re at it, add water filters. A Moen AquaSuite filtering faucet or PureTouch AquaSuite unit with under-sink water-filtration system eliminate the need for bottled water. To conserve water, choose products that allow you to control the flow of water with a simple tap. Last year, Delta Faucets debuted its patented Pilar Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet with Touch20 Technology. You tap anywhere on the spout or handle to start or stop the flow of water. Delta’s Diamond Seal Technology prevents water from coming into contact with possible metal contaminants such as brass, copper, and lead. The Brizo’s Pascal Culinary Faucet permits epicureans to activate water flow either by tapping the faucet or using a hands-free option. You’re more likely to conserve water because you don’t leave it running.
Choose cabinets certified by the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association’s (KCMA) Environmental Stewardship Program. “We use wood that is renewable, recyclable,” says Dick Titus, executive vice president of KCMA. Another option: choose cabinets made of wheat board, a particle-board product that contains wheat because it does not use formaldehyde as a binding agent and it reduces the need for timber fibers. Oak used to dominate cabinetry but today smoother grains such as maple, cherry, and hickory have grown in popularity.
Reclaimed or recycled wood is one of the greenest choices for flooring. The materials have been saved rather than dumped and are ready to lend character and comfort to your kitchen. Check with the manufacturer or supplier to see if you can add radiant heat underneath it, says Ken Bingham, an associate with SMA Architecture Planning Interiors in Croton-on-Hudson. The same can be installed underneath a stone floor, whether it’s tumbled marble or polished granite. Another green choice is bamboo because it replenishes itself quickly.
Though granite and other natural stones have been mainstays for kitchen countertops, man-made or engineered stone and recycled glass is gaining ground. Ceasarstone, Silestone, and Zodiaq, which are 92 to 93 percent natural quartz, have grown in popularity in the last three years. There are even countertops made of recycled paper and yogurt pots.
Harriet Edleson’s most recent book is The Little Black Book of Washington, DC: The Essential Guide to America’s Capital. She lives in Manhattan.