13 Green Kitchen Remodeling Tips

Kitchen remodeling is one of the hottest areas of home improvement. Whether trying to increase the resale value of your home, or if you just want a kitchen that wows the neighbors, there are plenty of environmentally-friendly renovation ideas that not only look great, but can save energy and money at the same time.

Here are some ways to bring your environmental consciousness into your renovation plans:

1. Find green contractors.

If you are hiring out some or part of the job, see if you have local contractors who use green products and are familiar with green building techniques.

2. Reuse and recycle.

Refacing cabinets and refinishing floors, instead of replacing them, can be both budget- and eco-friendly. Even if you choose to replace something you may be able to use it elsewhere. For example, cabinets can be repurposed as storage in the garage. You can also donate cabinets in good condition to charity. Depending on local laws, some of the debris generated from your kitchen remodel may be recyclable – it’s worth it to check. Also consider buying some used items, like cabinet hardware.

3. Keep your plans simple.

Huge rows of cabinets and acres of countertops look amazing in the shelter magazines, but are not practical for most homes. It’s easy to get caught up in the excess of the moment when renovating. Keep in mind that being green sometimes is more about what you don’t do than what you do.

4. Use low VOC, forest stewardship certified or sustainable wood cabinets.

Many cabinet makers are now offering green options that use wood from certified forests and low VOC adhesives. Some of these cabinets can be quite expensive, but there are less expensive choices at places like Ikea and some of the major home retailers.

5. Use Green Countertops

In most homes, the countertop is the centerpiece of the kitchen. While materials like granite and quartz provide beautiful work surfaces, there are several recycled and renewable options that can give your remodel a unique look, and be a great showpiece for a green kitchen.

  • Recycled Paper Countertops: Believe it or not, you can have a kitchen countertop made out of paper! Paper-based countertops use up to 100% recycled paper that has been heated and pressed with a resin that forms it into an incredibly durable surface. Companies like PaperStone even use petroleum-free resins. The surface is scratch and heat resistant, comes in various colors, and since the color goes all the way through the material, it can be handled just like wood; so it can be cut and shaped to fit custom areas. The paper material can also be used for furniture, trim, and partitions.
  • Recycled Glass Countertops: Glass countertops come in a myriad of colors and styles, and many are available that use 100% recycled glass. The glass is usually set in a concrete and epoxy mixture, making them as durable as any traditional solid-stone countertop. Because of the color and style options available, it is a great recycled-content alternative to the granite or quartz that are typically used in kitchen renovation, and just as attractive.
  • Bamboo Countertops: Bamboo is a uniquely renewable green resource; not only does it grow incredibly fast, but unlike trees, which are destroyed in the harvesting process, Bamboo is harvested in a way where the grass can keep right on growing. Hard and durable, Bamboo has been used for years in flooring, but is now becoming more popular for countertops, as well. Totally Bamboo is the leading manufacturer of Bamboo countertops.

6. Recycled Glass Tile Backsplash

Just like recycled glass is used in countertops, it is also a wonderful renovation option for tiling and backsplashes. In fact, recycled glass tile is an even better green application for the material, since the glass tiles do not require the use of concrete and epoxy, like countertops do. There are multiple suppliers, and recycled glass tiles are available in an extensive number of colors and sizes. Good looking and economical, recycled glass is an easy option for owners doing a kitchen remodel, especially when using modern-styled cabinets and appliances. If a more traditional look is needed for a renovation, recycled ceramic tiles are readily available, as well.

7. Linoleum is back.

Once a dated staple of ’50s sitcom kitchens, linoleum has returned to popularity largely because of its environmental pedigree – it’s incredibly durable and made from natural and renewable materials. Note that only real linoleum has these benefits, however. Many people think linoleum means any sort of vinyl floor but that’s not true – it must be real linoleum to be the green choice.

8. Don’t put your stove right next to your refrigerator.

The heat from the stove will make the fridge work harder, increasing energy usage – and energy bills.

9. Buy energy efficient appliances and dispose of old ones responsibly

The single most effective green decision that can be made in any kitchen renovation is replacing old appliances with new Energy Star rated appliances. The Energy Star program is sponsored by the EPA and the Department of Energy, and it challenges manufacturers to explore new technologies to make appliances more energy efficient. According to the Energy Star website, an Energy Star rated dishwasher uses less water and at least 41% less energy than the current minimum federal consumption standards, and an Energy Star rated refrigerator uses 40% less energy than a similar unit built in 2001. Not only does that mean less energy usage, but it also leads to savings on monthly power bills.

Most major manufacturers now make Energy Star appliances and you can compare their efficiency side-by-side in the store. It’s also important to get rid of appliances with care. If your area doesn’t accept them for recycling, try donating those in decent condition, giving them to friends, or using a special hauler who will recycle them for you. Some energy companies give rebates for recycling your old appliances.

10. Use low-VOC paints and adhesives.

Now available at many home stores, low-VOC paints are safer for the house’s inhabitants and more pleasant to paint with thanks to limited odors.

11. Consider materials made from recycled goods.

Countertops imbedded with old wine bottles. Flooring made from car tires. A backsplash designed with recycled glass tiles. Every day new and innovative products are developed using recycled materials and you can incorporate many of them into a kitchen. Green retailers like Green Depot are a good bet to find some of the new products.

12. Composting in the Kitchen

As efficient as they may be, not everyone wants a bucket of worms under the kitchen counter in an effort to be green and compost their leftover food. There are a few at-home composting options that can help get rid of those left-over kitchen scraps, but the most intriguing and user-friendly green option for composting in the modern kitchen is the Nature Mill. About the size of a small trash-can, you just throw your left-over food scraps in the top, close the lid, and let it do the rest; the Nature Mill adds heat and aeration, and every few weeks you have a bin full of compost in the bottom of the unit that you can use for flowers and plants. While it does use energy, it also greatly reduces the amount of garbage that goes out on the curb – up to 120 lbs a month, according to the manufacturer’s website. Plus, the Nature Mill incorporates a filter to eliminate odors, and is stylish enough to either sit out in the kitchen, or it can even be mounted on a sliding shelf in a cabinet.

13. Think local.

Much of the hidden environmental impact in a renovation is from the long distances that the products we buy travel to get to our doorstep. Using local stone for a countertop or regionally-made tile for a floor can be a smart decison. Unfortunately, that sometimes limits design choices so you need to weigh those factors as well.

As an added bonus, installing Energy Star rated appliances may qualify for state and Federal tax rebates or credits. Start here for more information and a list of Energy Star rated appliances.

With today’s technology, making green choices for your renovation is not only good for the environment, but it can also reduce your monthly expenses and, using the ideas above, you can end up with a great looking green kitchen!