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Sunny kitchen

Photo: Brad Coy

A kitchen renovation re-design is a savvy means to add value to your home. It’s even better when you can add elements to your renovation that add sustainability, better energy savings, and better health to your life in the kitchen.

Guest blogger, and residential alternative building and energy enthusiast Whitney Washington lends her perspective to a few ideas that can inform a big project like this …

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Renovating a kitchen gives you many opportunities to create something that says who you are. It is also a good chance to add environmentally-friendly items and turn your regular kitchen into an eco-friendly one.

For those who are interested in stripping down their kitchen and transforming it into an environmentally-friendly place, you have come to the right place.

Things to consider…

Refrigerators and your kitchen renovation

The first thing you need to look at is your refrigerator. Old refrigerators literally leak energy and jack up your electricity bill due to improper sealing.

Consider looking for a newer refrigerator as they tend to be more energy efficient than old ones. Also, a refrigerator that has been branded with the Energy Star logo. will have a minimum of 20% savings for energy consumption.

That 20% minimum adds up over time and can be a wise investment to make in the long run. Downsizing is another good option for both your budget and the environment and a Brandsource compact refrigerator is a good place to start looking. There are many models to choose from.

Kitchen counters & cabinets

Next step: The counter and cabinets. Instead of buying brand new tile from the local hardware store, try to see if you have a ReStore or something similar to it in your area. The ReStore is a place where contractors dump their leftover equipment such as tiles, cabinets, even toilets.

The ReStore keeps the materials out of the landfill and most of the time the things found there are in very good condition, if not almost brand new. You could find recycled tile in good condition or even recycled countertops and cut them into the shape you want for your countertop.

If that option isn’t available to you, consider getting cabinets from a company that is dedicated to a greener future and only uses non-toxic products for their cabinets.

kitchen cabinets and fridge

Photo: Ewen Roberts

Radiant heat, your kitchen, and energy efficiency

Depending on the type of floor you’ve got in your kitchen, it can involve tearing up the current floor and replacing it with a radiant heating-compatible floor. Radiant heating works by installing tubes where hot water, or even electrical power in an insulated coil, runs through. The tubes become very hot to the touch however when covered with concrete or an earth stamped floor it protects the tubes and the heat slowly releases from the floor, creating a steady temperature.

Radiant heat is considered to be energy efficient because it places a heat source low, allowing it to rise naturally from the flooring and into ambient room warmth. And all the while, because your feet are heated, this often reduces the need to turn up the heat on your room’s thermostat since warm feet makes for a warm rest-of-you.

Flooring accessories and alternatives

Eco-friendly flooring is another key way to make your kitchen more eco-friendly.

You can opt for post-industrial porcelain tile to give your kitchen that smooth, sophisticated look with the confidence of knowing that it comes from up to 40% recyclable materials, created from .

Kitchen and dining room porcelain tile

Concrete is another durable material which lasts a long time when properly sealed. The downside to concrete is this: Traditional concrete isn’t eco-friendly. However, there are some cement substitutes that would work with a radiant floor heating plan.

Fly ash mixed with lime and water is a durable compound, very similar to cement. Fly ash is a byproduct of coal burning power plants. In the past, as much as 75% of fly ash was dumped in the landfill. If you use fly ash along with water and lime, the creation would be a radiant heating floor made out of eco-friendly and recycled material.

Eco-friendly kitchen wall coverings and treatments: non-VOC paint

The final touch to creating your dream green kitchen is the walls. If your house was built before 1970, chances are the paint in your house is may be lead-based. Consider removing and painting over the lead with a low or no VOC paint, making sure to find out as much about lead paint exposure as you can. It can be very hazardous to try and remove lead based paint, and it is strongly recommended to hire a professional for this task. When you are ready to paint, consider using a paint that has a low count of VOC or none at all.

VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds and it is the kind of strong, chemical smell that paint gives off while drying on the walls. It isn’t good for your health or the environment. When creating an eco-friendly kitchen, avoid paint with a high VOC count. Mythic and Freshaire Choice are two examples of companies that sell zero-VOC paint.

Now that the paint has dried and all of the construction supplies have been put away, you will have a beautiful and eco-friendly kitchen to be proud of.

Mother Nature says thanks!

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Thanks, Whitney!

Whitney Washington is currently working towards a degree in sustainable agriculture. She’s interested in alternative building and energy, sustainability, and being environmentally friendly.

She has built a sturdy, storage shed out of recycled countertops, aware of her carbon footprint and striving to build her own house out of tire bales and recycled material. (Earthship house, anyone?) 

Cheers,

Rob.

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Cate Morgan-Harlow

Cate Morgan-Harlow is an all arounder, writing about how-to, DIY, and design with gusto. She is a shadowy figure with a mysterious past.