How to Build a Greener, Smarter Kitchen
Renovating the heart of your home? Choose appliances and surfaces that are kind on the environment.
The benefits of completely renovating your kitchen? You can fill it with appliances, surfaces, and cabinetry that are good for Mother Earth. Take the revamped space, above, for example. The extra-wide range hood in Green Phoenix's Massachusetts kitchen renovation whisks away even more cooking fumes. Two induction burners (about twice as efficient as gas, and genius for jobs like boiling water) supplement the Wolf range. Nothing sears like gas, but many professional kitchens use induction for everything else. Looking for more ways to build a greener, smarter kitchen? Consider this expert-approved advice, ahead.
Choose Greener Goods
Run your dishwasher daily. An efficient machine can use around three gallons per load, compared with the up to 20 that handwashing can take. German maker Miele has the top-rated Energy Star models (from $1,400, miele.com).
Revamp Your Pantry
Bulk bins are an eco shopper's best friend, but many are on hiatus. For now, Anna Marino, owner of the Alexandria, Virginia, zero-waste dry-goods shop Mason & Greens, advises buying the largest size of staples like beans and flour, and de-canting them into jars or up-cycled empties. And mind the GAP, she says: Glass over Aluminum packaging, Aluminum over Plastic. "Glass is forever recyclable. Aluminum is too, but it may have BPAs. Plastics are full of chemicals, and most can't be recycled."
When installing a new set, go with wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC); the glues that bind compressed wood can off-gas toxins like formaldehyde. Even better, think local—and opt for open shelves: "We used reclaimed wood from our property," says Austin, Texas, architect and interior designer Laura Britt, who built her own LEED home. "They do require some dusting, but they took less material than cabinet boxes with doors." To refresh existing cabinets, replace only the fronts, says Living home editor Lorna Aragon: "You'll get a new look and toss less material." If the boxes are compressed wood, brushing on a clear sealant like AFM Safecoat will help contain VOCs ($22 per quart, dwellsmart.com).
Salvaged stone and wood are the most sustainable, lowest-emitting materials. Restaurant-style stainless steel is basically indestructible. All-natural stone composites are great, too. ColorQuartz is shown above, and Britt recommends Dekton, a new composite from the maker of Silestone. It's stain-, scratch-, and heat-resistant and comes in more than 70 colors. She loves how practical it is: "I can take a hot pan out of the oven and set it down right on it; it's that resilient."
Tap a Better Faucet
You may not think you need your sink to talk to Siri, but choose features that help you conserve water. Many brands offer touchless sensor fixtures that turn off after 10 seconds but also have a manual lever for, say, filling a pasta pot. Integrated filters are a handy alternative to reaching for bottled water (it takes at least twice as much water to produce a plastic bottle as it does to fill it). Go to the Environmental Working Group's Tap Water Database to ID the pollutants in your water and find a filter that removes them. Activated-carbon pitchers or faucet-mounted taps are quick, inexpensive fixes; Elkay's ezH2O Liv Bottle-Filling Station (from $1,440, elkay.com) is a convenient upgrade.