Approximately 11% of Americans moved homes in 2017. Increasingly, home buyers want kitchens that are eco-friendly. Even if you’re not in the market for a new home, you still may want a greener kitchen. Like many homeowners, you may be particularly concerned about sustainability and energy efficiency. Here are 10 tips for making your kitchen more eco-friendly.
1. Use Tote Bags for Groceries
This is a simple way to benefit the environment. Buy several sturdy canvas bags with handles and keep them in your car for trips to the grocery store. Get into the habit of bringing them inside the store. After you unload the groceries at home, take the bags back out immediately to the car so that they’re not left behind on your next shopping trip.
2. Consider Durability
Select utensils, pots and pans, baking dishes, and other items that won’t wear out quickly and need to be replaced. Specifically, avoid products containing Teflon, as this material doesn’t last long. Cast iron and stainless steel are made to endure. Although it’s more expensive, a high-quality cast iron pan will last for decades. Similarly, look for durable utensils. For instance, inexpensive wooden spoons are vulnerable to rot and plastic spatulas will melt if left too long in a hot pan. Choose good knives that can be hand-sharpened, of course. You can also replace paper towels with cloth ones that can be used again and again.
You may like experimenting in the kitchen, but beware of investing in items you may not use over the long haul. Some communities have kitchen libraries that allow you to test tools and appliances and avoid contributing unwanted items to the landfill.
3. Choose More Eco-Friendly Paint
When giving your kitchen a fresh look, select paint that contains few or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are gases, often toxic, that are released into the air when paint, cleaning supplies, paint stripper, and certain construction materials are used. There are plenty of eco-friendly paint options available that can improve the look of your kitchen without causing harm to the environment or your family.
4. Reface Cabinets When Possible
In the U.S., construction revenue totaled $1.3 trillion in 2018. But there are eco-friendly alternatives to remodeling your entire kitchen. Refacing cabinetry will nearly always produce the same results as custom building cabinets, but refacing utilizes less wood than the amount taken from one tree. Once reinforced during refacing, the frames on your current cabinets will be more durable. You’ll also cut down on remodeling costs, as custom design costs more than twice as much as refacing.
5. Hire a Contractor Who Offers Eco-Friendly Options
If you do decide to remodel your kitchen, find a professional who is well-versed in the greener choices available in home construction. You’ll cut down on costs and time if your contractor is already familiar with the non-toxic, eco-friendly kitchen features you want. Meet with a number of contractors face to face before you hire anyone and check online reviews to find out about their reputations.
6. Look for WaterSense Products
WaterSense is a program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The WaterSense label alerts consumers to products that use water efficiently, save energy, and promote superior functionality. Manufacturers, retailers, home builders, and others partner with WaterSense on a voluntary basis to bring water-efficient products to consumers. The EPA reports that as many as 180 gallons of water are wasted by leaks every week in the typical American household. Replacing existing plumbing fixtures with fixtures that feature the WaterSense label can reduce further waste.
7. Consider Electric Instead of Gas
Ultra pure gases (which have purities of 99.995% and above) can be found in a wide range of industries and applications. But many homeowners are more familiar with gas-powered appliances, including stoves. It may surprise you to learn that using electricity for appliances is actually the greener option. The most energy-efficient electric-powered stoves feature induction elements, which allow the stove to utilize electromagnetic energy and spend half as much energy as stoves with typical coil burners. Electric stoves are also a healthier choice than stoves powered by gas, which may send 25% to 39% more nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide into the air of your home.
8. Choose Natural Flooring Options
Cork is a natural type of flooring material that comes without the toxins often found in manufactured materials. Cork costs about the same as wood, but it’s a sustainable option. Cork trees regrow every nine years, as opposed to trees such as maple or oak that take decades to replace. Bamboo is another sustainable flooring option that appeals to many homeowners. Either of these can look beautiful in the kitchen or elsewhere throughout the home.
9. Consider Quartz or Corian for Countertops
Granite is less sustainable than either quartz or Corian. Mining for granite has a greater environmental impact than the production of Corian and quartz. These alternatives to granite are very simple to maintain, don’t need toxic sealants, and will endure for decades without damage. Ultimately, that will save you money while protecting the planet.
10. Cook With Energy Efficiency in Mind
Modern ovens meet required temperatures so quickly that most preheating isn’t necessary. If you’re baking or roasting a dish or dessert that doesn’t need an exact cooking time, you can place it in the oven before it’s heated, switch off the oven five to 10 minutes early, and allow the cooking to be completed in the residual heat. The same goes for items prepared on an electric stove. It’s also a good idea to make efficient use of the whole oven, such as by cooking more than one dish at the same time. When it comes to smaller dishes, you’ll save energy if you use a toaster oven or microwave. On the stovetop, make sure you’re using pots that fit the burners; when the burner is wider than the pot, much of the burner’s heat is wasted.
These days, many homeowners are looking for energy-efficient, sustainable options. We can choose greener materials for our kitchens without sacrificing functionality or breaking our budgets.