How To Design And Build A Sustainable Kitchen: 7 Eco-Friendly Tips
A sustainable kitchen is the heart of an “eco-friendly” home. If you’re trying to go green during your renovation, then using materials and methods that are more environmentally conscious is the way forward.
Whether you’re building a new kitchen or renovating an old one, there are lots of ways to be more sustainable. And it’s easier than you think.
Keep reading for seven eco-friendly materials and practices that are commonly used in designing and building a sustainable kitchen.
When designing your new kitchen, you want to know where your materials are from, how long they’ll last, what they’re made of, and where they’ll end up after you’ve used them.
Sustainable Kitchen Design
7 Eco-Friendly Tips
1. Re-Use Items
A top tip for sustainability is to re-use items you already have. You can often refurbish and refresh worn-out items when you redesign a sustainable kitchen.
Instead of buying new handles for cabinet doors and drawers, why not re-use the old ones? Use VOC-free paint to freshen up the look.
Or instead of building/buying a new cabinet from scratch, you can simply change the doors and worktop. This way you not only save on the purchase but also use fewer materials.
2. Use Sustainable Materials
- Solid timber. The advantage of solid timber cabinets is that they come from a natural source. Unlike plastics that can be made using harmful chemicals, solid timber is a green and renewable resource.
On top of this, solid timber doors can be repainted and repaired, unlike laminate or vinyl-wrapped doors. Solid timber doors are a great choice for durability and longevity in a sustainable kitchen.
- Plywood. Plywood kitchens are fast becoming a new sustainable kitchen design trend.
The cabinets for these kitchens are made of thin sheets of wood glued together, one on top of another. The number of sheets glued together determines the plywood’s thickness (ply).
Plywood is strong, durable, and very versatile to use for sustainable kitchen cabinets. It’s also cheaper in comparison to solid timber. But to stay sustainable, make sure the plywood manufacturer doesn’t use formaldehyde in their glue.
- Bamboo. A bamboo cabinet is not only eco-friendly but also beautiful. Bamboo veneer made from mature stalks has stave patterns unique only to bamboo.
Moreover, bamboo is very easy to grow and is considered a very rapid growing renewable resource. You can’t go wrong with bamboo if you’re going for a sustainable kitchen.
In using sustainable materials, invest in quality. Look for sustainable materials that are durable and you know will last a long time.
It’s better to make a good investment once that will last a long time. You don’t want to skimp on your cabinets and have to repair or replace them several times.
- FSC timber. Countertop timber that is FSC, or Forest Stewardship Control, certified is a timber that was harvested and processed in the most environment-friendly and responsible manner. The forests they come from are responsibly managed with the highest environmental and social benefits in mind.
- Neolith. Neolith is lightweight, durable, and largely made of recycled raw materials, like crushed stone. Up to 52% of any Neolith board is comprised of recycled raw materials. The various raw materials that comprise Neolith are subjected to intense heat and pressure creating boards that are tough, scratch-free, and heat resistant. That makes Neolith countertops durable and sustainable.
- Recycled glass. Tiny chips of broken and crushed glass are combined with resin and bonded together tightly to make recycled glass countertops. These worktops are unique and beautiful, especially when colourful bits of glass are used.
Use VOC-free paint is key for a sustainable kitchen. This is paint that doesn’t contain Volatile Organic Compounds.
VOC is the reason newly painted surfaces smell of paint. These smells come from the harmful chemicals – or volatile gases – in VOC paints. They are harmful not only to the environment but also to your health.
Auro, earthBorn, Behr, Benjamin Moore, Little Green and Sherwin Williams are paint brands that produce VOC-free or low VOC paints.
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3. Save Water
Low-flow faucets are key to a sustainable kitchen. Low-flow faucets save about 30 – 50% on your water consumption. You can also get a low-flow aerator for your faucet. Aerators mix air into your water, giving your low water flow added volume.
Another way to improve your sustainable kitchen is by using an energy-efficient dishwasher. This is one that doesn’t require a lot of water for washing and rinsing.
In addition, if you’re a smaller household you could opt for a slimline dishwasher. These are 450mm wide (rather than 600mm) and will use less water during their wash cycle – perfect if you never fill a full-size dishwasher.
4. Choose Energy Efficient Appliances
When trying to go green, you’ll want to invest in energy-efficient appliances. You can tell how efficient a product is through its energy rating. Appliances are rated from G to A+++. If you want to be sustainable, then A+++ appliances are the ones for you.
In terms of cooking appliances, using an induction hob or stove is more energy-efficient than either gas or electric stoves. An induction hob heats water at a much faster rate than traditional gas or electric. You save time, energy and money by using induction hobs.
You could also consider getting a zeolith dishwasher as they use about 20% less energy than a new traditional dishwasher. Thanks to their unique drying technology.
Don’t just think about your big appliances, however. You also want to make sure your countertop appliances, such as the kettle, microwave and toaster, are labelled energy efficient.
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5. Consider A Food Waste Disposal Unit (Garbage Disposer)
A garbage disposal unit is another great feature for a sustainable kitchen. This will be installed in your kitchen sink, reducing food waste that goes in your garbage bins.
Instead, food waste goes through your garbage disposal unit and directly down the sewage system. It’s then treated in sewage treatment plants and used to benefit the environment.
Some of these plants will capture any methane gas that is released by food waste more efficiently than a landfill and can convert it to a green energy source.
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6. Use Energy Efficient Lighting
LED lights are highly efficient and environmentally-friendly light sources for your kitchen. They are 90% more efficient than either incandescent, fluorescent, or compact fluorescent lamps.
LED lights also usually have a longer lifespan than any of the other light sources. So you not only save on electricity but also on non-biodegradable wastes.
7. Get The Design Right
Don’t rush the design. A sustainable kitchen is a worthwhile project to undertake and therefore needs careful and thoughtful planning and design.
You don’t want to regret your choices a few months, or even years, down the line and have to replace items. If you’re not an expert on interior design, ask for help from someone who knows the turf.
Getting a good design will save you money on future repair and replacement of cheap, low-quality materials like plastics. More importantly, getting in a good environment-friendly, sustainable kitchen design promises you more durable and long-lasting materials.
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Going green isn’t just a trend – it’s the way of tomorrow. Making sure you choose sustainable methods and materials for your kitchen design project gets you on the right path to an eco-friendly future.
A sustainable kitchen not only benefits the environment at large but your home environment, too. It can increase efficiency, create minimal maintenance, reduce the costs of operations and offer health benefits.
Sustainable kitchen design may take more thought, care and consideration, but it doesn’t have to mean more money. There are always better choices for every budget!
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for around 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.