ADVICE & TIPS, TECHNICAL

How To Design A Sustainable Kitchen: Eco-Friendly Ideas

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 my eco-friendly tips on materials and practices that are commonly used in designing and building a sustainable kitchen.

What Is A Sustainable Kitchen?

A sustainable kitchen is designed with environmental responsibility in mind. It focuses on reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste, and using eco-friendly materials.

Key features often include energy-efficient appliances, sustainable or recycled materials for countertops and cabinets, and a layout that maximizes natural light to reduce electricity use.

Additionally, sustainable kitchens often incorporate practices like composting, using water-saving faucets, and choosing products with minimal packaging.

The goal is to create a space that is both functional and kind to the planet, reducing the kitchen’s carbon footprint and promoting a healthier environment.

♻️ 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 Ideas

1. Reuse Items

A top tip for sustainability is to reuse 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.

Sustainable kitchen design eco friendly

2. Use Sustainable Materials

Cabinets

  • 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 rapidly 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.

Countertops

  • FSC Wood. Countertop timber that is FSC-certified, (Forest Stewardship Council) is 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. T

    he 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. 

Paint

Using 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.

VOC Free Paint Sustainable kitchen

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3. Consider A Secondhand Kitchen

The production of new kitchen components (like most things) can contribute significantly to carbon emissions.

By choosing a second-hand kitchen, you’re reducing this demand, thereby helping in conserving natural resources. It’s a form of recycling that lessens the burden on our planet.

Second-hand kitchens often come at a fraction of the cost of new ones. This affordability doesn’t mean compromising on quality.

Many second-hand pieces are well-made and have stood the test of time.

Websites like The Used Kitchen Company are set up for this exact thing. Even eBay and local Facebook selling groups are treasure troves for second-hand kitchen units. You might find a complete set or individual pieces that can be creatively combined.

Just make sure to check those measurements and kitchen design, so you can use all (or as many as you can) the cabinets you are getting secondhand.

4. 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, while still reducing water waste.

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.

Kitchen sink with waste disposal unit

5. Choose Energy Efficient Kitchen Appliances

When trying to go green, you’ll want to invest in energy-efficient kitchen 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 cooktop heats water at a much faster rate than traditional gas or electric cooktops.

You can 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.

Energy Labels for kitchen appliances

6. Consider A Food Waste Disposal Unit (Garbage Disposer)

A garbage disposal unit is another great feature of 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 into a green energy source.

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7. Use Energy-Efficient Lighting

Switching to energy-efficient lighting is a simple yet impactful step towards a greener and more sustainable home.

LED lights are highly efficient and environmentally friendly light sources for your kitchen.

They are up to 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

Energy-efficient bulbs are a great choice for reducing electricity consumption, which can lead to significant savings on your energy bills.

Also, these bulbs boast a longer lifespan, meaning you’ll need to replace them less frequently, saving both money, resources and non-biodegradable waste

Of course, if you can, get as much natural light into your kitchen as you can through large windows or skylights. Natural light free!

LED Lights

8. Eco-friendly flooring

When choosing your flooring, consider factors like the source of the material, its environmental impact, durability, and the energy used in production and transportation.

Some popular sustainable flooring materials are:

  1. Bamboo: Bamboo flooring is a favourite for its strength and rapid renewability. It grows much faster than traditional hardwoods, making it a highly sustainable option. Bamboo floors offer a clean, modern look and are known for their durability.

  2. Reclaimed Timber: Using reclaimed timber is a form of recycling that gives old wood a new life. This option prevents the need for new trees to be cut down and adds a unique character and story to your floors.

  3. Cork: Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees without harming the tree, making it a renewable resource. It’s soft underfoot, naturally antimicrobial, and provides excellent insulation, making it a practical and eco-friendly choice.

  4. Linoleum: Often confused with vinyl, true linoleum is a mixture of linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour, and natural resins. This biodegradable material is long-lasting and comes in a variety of colours and patterns. It’s also easy to maintain and hypoallergenic.

  5. Natural Stone: While its extraction process can be resource-intensive, choosing locally sourced natural stone reduces transportation emissions. Stone flooring is long-lasting, requires minimal maintenance, and can be recycled.
  6. Polished Concrete: Utilizing the existing concrete slab as a finished floor reduces material use. It’s extremely durable, easy to clean, and can be finished with eco-friendly sealants.

9. Saving Water and Energy with A Boiling Water Tap

According to UK Tea and Infusions Association – Brits waste £742,000 a year boiling too much water when they make a cup of tea.

Traditional kettles often lead to increased energy consumption, as people tend to boil more hot water than necessary or re-boil cooled water. This results in excessive energy use.

In contrast, boiling water taps efficiently address this issue by heating only the exact amount of water needed, just when it’s needed.

This approach not only prevents the common problem of overfilling kettles, which wastes water and energy but also ensures that energy is used only for the water you actually use.

Apart from their environmental benefits, boiling water taps offer fantastic convenience. The speed and ease of having boiling water on demand make them a practical addition to any modern eco-friendly kitchen, blending sustainability with comfort and efficiency.

Boiling water tap in kitchen countertop

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10. 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 a good environment-friendly, sustainable kitchen design promises you more durable and long-lasting materials.

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Final Thoughts…

Going green isn’t just a trend – it’s the way of tomorrow!

Making sure you choose sustainable methods and materials for your project gets you on the right path to an eco-friendly kitchen design 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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Author

Michael from Kitchinsider.com

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 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.