Environmentally responsible, do-it-yourself renovations can make a big difference in a home, contributing to indoor air quality, water, and energy savings, and many without tremendous cost. When homeowners think of greening a kitchen, they may envision big-ticket items and monthlong jobs with big dollar signs, but transforming a kitchen doesn’t have to be so involved, experts say.
“Start practically and smart—taking small steps is always the key,” says Sarah Beatty, owner of Green Depot, a supplier of environmentally friendly products. Due to the economy, people are staying right where they are, and now is the best time to spruce up the home, she says.
Beatty suggests starting with what you have. If your cabinetry is still in good standing, refinish it with a low-VOC coating, like Petri’s Parlay 21, a water-based polyurethane with a hard, durable finish. “Recreating your space with color can make a huge difference,” Beatty says. Or if painting your walls fits your upgrade, use a non-VOC paint such as Benjamin Moore’s Natura line.
In addition to changing color, changing the lighting of your kitchen will immediately update its look. LED undercabinet fixtures will emit light comparable to a typical fluorescent fixture, but will use around half the energy. Although the initial cost is higher, LED lighting will save money in the long run.
To add to the visual changes made in the kitchen, practical ones are just as important. Kate Talbot, a designer at Millbrook Cabinetry & Design, says that recycling stations have become a big request in her store. Millbrook Cabinetry & Design offers numerous options to insert sorting stations into cabinets to give homeowners more of a reason to separate paper, metal, glass, and plastic from trash. “Having at least two big separate containers is one of the biggest trends we have seen,” Talbot says.
With the added initiative to recycle comes composting. Doug Mazeffa, research director of Greenopia, an online directory of green living, says that under-the-counter composting is best for homeowners who are serious about enriching their soil. He recommends NatureMill’s under-the-counter series, which ranges from $299 to $399. Although the price may sound steep, it can hold up to 120 pounds of waste per month (including meat, fish, dairy, and pet waste), and make compost within two weeks. If that isn’t exactly the price point you were looking for, try a small countertop version with Plow & Hearth’s Bamboo Composter, priced less than $50. It provides a simple way to store your scraps before discarding them in the backyard compost bin.
Another big change you can make in the kitchen is getting rid of bottled water. “There are some nutrients in tap water you are missing out on when drinking bottled,” Mazeffa says. A product like the GE Carbon Filtration System, which easily installs under your kitchen counter to improve the taste and odor of ordinary tapwater, will remove all mercury, VOCs, and pesticides. It will cost around $200, so if that isn’t in your budget, a $30 Brita can also do the trick.
Another drinking solution comes from Beatty of Green Depot: “Instead of buying soda, purchasing a stand-alone sodamaker will not only save you money but also help you use a lot less energy.” She suggests the SodaStream JET Starter Kit and has found this product to be extremely popular over the past year.
Updating cookware is another important step, starting with pots and pans. Look for PTFE- and PFOA- free cookware, with non-stick options like Cuisinart’s Green Gourmet set, which is made of 70 percent recycled stainless steel, or EarthPan’s Hard Anodized set.
In addition to changing out pots and pans, change out your utensils. Enrico Products, an all-natural line of about 120 products made from reclaimed and renewable wood, believes in putting less plastic into consumers’ hands. Chad Richardson, owner of Enrico Products, says that selling sustainability is very important in this economy. “We offer a very unique product, which has helped us maintain,” Richardson says. Enrico products are meant to last a lifetime and hold up very well in everyday use.
Their array of wood cutting boards, peppermills, cheese graters, bowls, and serving dishes can meet most cooking needs, and because they meet rigorous quality and environmental standards, Greenopia endorses them.
If a bigger budget is in your realm, replacing appliances with energy-efficient ones is the best way to go. “EnergyStar appliances are now designed with higher standards than are government mandated, giving consumers a better product overall,” Jeff Sohns, owner of Sohns Appliance Center, says. A leader in this movement is appliance maker Bosch, a company that has earned EnergyStar ratings on all of its refrigerators and dishwashers. Bosch’s EcoAction option in its dishwashers reduces energy usage by up to 25 percent, while using as little as 4.4 gallons of water in a regular wash and as little as 3.6 gallons in economy wash.
Miele and Liebherr appliances are other key energy-saving appliance brands, but shop around for features and price points to fit your needs. Luckily for homeowners, rebates are still available for energy- efficient appliance purchases. Utility companies like Central Hudson will pay you $50 to recycle your old, working refrigerator or freezer, while manufacturers like Miele, Asko, and Viking will throw in added incentives to purchase new appliances. For example, if you buy any Miele EnergyStar-qualified refrigeration appliance or dishwasher, you will receive a free S7 vacuum cleaner.
“Whatever it is you are looking to replace, just do it with a green one. Not only will it help save energy, but will save you money in the long run,” Mazeffa says.
So whether it’s a complete remodel or just a small upgrade, greening your kitchen is attainable at any budget. Whether you install all new EnergyStar appliances or add a water filter to your sink, making environmentally friendly decisions in your kitchen can make a bigger impact on the environment than you may think. Figuring out what works best for your family is always a challenge, but buying ecofriendly products for your kitchen has never been easier.
KITCHEN SUPPLIERS Ackerman’s Appliances; (518) 828-7339; ackermansappliance.com Leibert’s Royal Green Appliance Center; (888) 534-4572; Leiberts.com Manhattan Center for Kitchen & Bath; (212) 995-0500; mckb.com Davis & Warshow; (718) 937-9500; daviswarshow.com Green Depot; (212) 226-0444; greendepot.com Millbrook Cabinetry & Design; (845) 677-3006; millbrookcabinetryanddesign.com Sohns Appliance Center; (845) 778-7124; sohnsappliancecenter.com
MAJOR APPLIANCES Bosch; (800) 944-2904; bosch-home.com/us Miele; (800) 843-7231; mieleusa.com Liebherr; (866) 543-2437; liebherr.us
COUNTERTOP APPLIANCES & ACCESSORIES Cuisinart; (800) 726-0190; cuisinart.com EarthPan; earthpan.com Enrico Products; (206) 524-4770; enricoproducts.com GE, (203) 373-2211; ge.com NatureMill; (800) 613-6629; naturemill.com