We purchased a condo last year, and since it was a new condo, that meant designing everything from the ground up and putting in all new appliances, floors, cupboards, etc. Unfortunately, based on various limits and compromises, I can’t say that it is the “greenest” kitchen in the world, but there are some clear green features that I think are worth highlighting and sharing.
Whether you are designing a new kitchen or doing a kitchen renovation*, there are a number of ways to make your central area for food preparation and storage more environmentally friendly and healthier. I’m sure I won’t think of everything in this article, but I think these ideas can go a long way toward cutting your climate and environmental footprint.
Clearly, the things in your kitchen that have the biggest climate or environmental footprint are the appliances — they use a great deal of electricity over their lifetimes. The good news is that they have gotten more and more efficient over the years. Still, there’s a lot of variation on the market. Again, though, the good news is that there are standardized systems in place now to help you compare the various products on the market — by comparing electricity use, water use, etc.
In Europe, we have tags like the one above on all appliances in the store. When shopping for our home, we were focused on getting the most efficient appliances (or in some cases, nearly the most efficient appliances) that we could — basically, A+++ appliances (except in some categories where the highest available was A++), but also looking at kWh/annum and water usage figures. Generally speaking, these appliances weren’t more expensive than competing products. It seemed so obvious to buy the most efficient that I genuinely have a hard time understanding how people could *not* buy the most efficient appliances on the market. But I guess there is still the need to think about it and try (a little bit).
In the US, of course, we have similar standardization and comparisons provided by ENERGY STAR.
After appliances, lighting is probably the biggest area where you can make your kitchen much greener. Using LEDs instead of incandescent (or even CFL) light bulbs will result in bit savings over time. With the price of LEDs dropping so much in recent years, it also makes financial sense to choose LEDs now. They are still typically more up front, but they save so much energy over time that they end up saving you a lot of money. Of course, since they last much longer, they also save you trips to the store and time getting on a ladder and changing out bulbs.
Beyond appliances and lighting, there’s of course a lot of embodied energy as well as potentially toxins harmful to your health in the materials that make up countertops, cupboards, floor and wall tiles, and other hardware in the kitchen. Going through the many options for these and how they compare is a huge task, so I’ll leave that for another time. But if you are designing a new kitchen or renovating an old one, do look into your options and how they compare!
*This article was kindly sponsored by RONA Home & Garden.