Building a Kitchen with Sustainable Materials

kitchen-with-sustainable-materialsIt’s often said that the kitchen is the heart and soul of a home, and in my family it’s certainly true. My husband, my daughter, and I all love to cook. It’s where we gather around for a chat while preparing dinner together, and where we start our days in the morning over a mug of tea before the school run and commute.

Because we spend so much time in this multipurpose room, it’s worth giving it a little bit of extra TLC when designing it. Building a sustainable kitchen also carries the added bonus of adding value to your home if you’re thinking of selling it down the road! With that in mind, here are a few tips to make your kitchen a little more green-friendly.

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Image Source: Photographs by Gnangarra – commons.wikimedia.org

Materials to Avoid

Before you start building, it’s a good idea to do a bit of research to uncover which common building materials are sustainable and which should be put on the no-no list. These include any veneers or varnishes containing toxic substances like polyurethane, and products emitting nasty volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and ethyl acetate.

This is particularly important in warm climates, where heat and humidity can allow increased vaporization of formaldehyde from common wood materials. Speaking of wood, many kitchens utilize timber sourced from non-sustainable sources. Wood cabinetry looks fantastic in a kitchen, but if you’re not careful you may end up with finishing products sourced from old-growth forests!

Sustainable Building Materials

Bamboo is a good eco-friendly alternative to formaldehyde-releasing materials like white board, with no formaldehyde or melamine. It’s fast-growing, can be used for a variety of surfaces, and is both durable and affordable. Wooden surfaces certified by the Forest Stewardship Council can also be used. Look for locally sourced wood to cut down on transport emissions.

Do you love the look of granite countertops but hate the fact that stone is a finite resource? Think carefully about how to use stone as a design accent. When taken care of, natural stone worktops can last for the entire lifespan of the home, and can even be down-cycled into other products to give it a new life.

If you’re looking for innovative ways to use stone accents, designers like archijuice stood out from the crowd for their innovation. Look for recycled composites as an alternative, which can be composed of anything from fly ash to glass. Stainless steel is another popular home kitchen material. Today’s stainless steel is approximately 60% recycled, but the process of manufacturing it is energy intensive. Fortunately, it can be recycled at the end of its life cycle.

How to Get Started

To get started, you’ll need to evaluate what your criteria for sustainability looks like. For most, this will be a combination of products that are durable, recyclable, and energy-efficient. They should also be derived from sustainable sources. If you’re remodelling an existing kitchen, it’s also worth paying for an energy audit to see if there are areas that could be improved.

This will let you know if old windows and insulation need to be replaced, for example. Research your options and discuss which materials will best fit into your design plans.

A sustainably built kitchen can be durable, stylish, and fit into a wide range of decorating schemes. It can also potentially add value to your home, while at the same time serving as its central gathering place.

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