We Earthlings are planning to renovate and slightly expand our small, shabby, 1950s kitchen, so I’m very interested in this guest post by Sofia Lockett, a freelance writer based in Auckland, who is passionate about travel, technology and innovation. Sofia has written for New Zealand businesses such as seacontainers.co.nz.
Kitchens are the heart of the home, but they are also the heart of the energy bill, especially when they are cluttered with hungry appliances and tired lighting. The following suggestions for planning an eco-kitchen remodel will help you protect the health of the environment, your family and your bank balance.
It is worthwhile finding environmentally aware contractors and locally owned and operated companies who understand your goals, before beginning any house renovations. They will know where to source sustainable materials and provide personalised suggestions to ensure that your eco-friendly dream home becomes a reality.
Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances . . .
Appliances are often responsible for a large portion of energy consumption in homes, many of which are found in the kitchen. Renovating is the ideal time to upgrade to modern, efficient and eco-friendly models, saving you money in the long run.
With recent advances in technology, there is an overwhelming choice of makes and models, with numerous features and add-ons available. Thankfully, many countries employ an energy rating system for appliances, making it easy to compare and choose eco-friendly kitchen products. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy teamed up to create the Energy Star program, which labels worthy appliances with the Energy Star logo.
You may consider investing in an induction cooktop, as they are more energy efficient than traditional electric ring elements. For dishwashers, look for eco-wash or short wash cycle features that save both water and energy.
. . . And arrange them in an energy-efficient layout
Layout is a key component of an environmentally friendly kitchen design. Fridges and freezers operate most efficiently when placed out of direct sunlight and away from heating systems and ovens, with a ventilating gap on all sides.
An extractor fan or range hood placed above the stovetop to effectively extract moisture, smoke and odours is also a key component of a healthy home.
Use eco-friendly materials
Recycled materials are a great way to add personality and style to your home. Sustainable kitchen materials range from recycled stone-chipped composite countertops to dining tables crafted from recycled wood. Bamboo panelling or recycled glass are stylish options for eco-friendly kitchen cabinets, pantry door insets and splashbacks. By-products and sustainable wood products harvested from quickly regenerating forests are also viable options.
When possible, opt for locally sourced and manufactured materials to decrease the energy and emissions associated with transportation.
Update the lighting system
Adequate lighting is essential for a functional space such as the kitchen. It is perhaps not surprising then that lighting comprised 9.2% of electricity consumption in the U.S. residential sector in 2016. Maximise natural lighting with windows and skylights to allow light and warmth in, reducing the energy requirements of heating and artificial lighting during the day.
LED and CFL lighting are energy-efficient and long-lasting options compared to either traditional incandescent or halogen lights. Adding a dimmer dramatically reduces energy requirements, increases bulb longevity while creating mood and ambience.
Install water-efficient fixtures
Water is the world’s most valuable resource, so water-conserving fixtures are essential for creating an eco-friendly home.
Adding a water filtration system may be a useful investment to safeguard against increasing pollution levels in many areas.
A note from ‘Becca: More responsible than filtering your own water is advocating for clean water for your entire community. Here in Pittsburgh, we are blessed with some of the world’s best water, but it was recently contaminated by a combination of old lead pipes and improper water treatment that increased lead leaching. Read here about what the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority has been doing to fix the problem. It’s been exciting–about 80% of our front yard had to be dug up, so we are essentially starting over on our garden!
Add a recycling system
Recycling can be made quick and simple with the addition of an easily accessible, pull-out bin.
Also, set up your own compost system for green waste. This is rewarding, and you can reap the healthy – and tasty – benefits from your veggie garden.
Personalise with eco-friendly décor
Once the key elements of your kitchen are sorted, it is time to add a homey touch. Light shades, door handles and art made from repurposed materials can create an authentic and unique finish.
Light-coloured and semi-reflective surfaces, including your beautiful, sustainable countertop, maximise the light available and make your home feel fresh, clean and spacious.
Check that paints and finishes are free of volatile organic compounds (VOC-free), meaning that they do not emit any gases that are potentially harmful to people or the environment.
Now that you have created your dream green kitchen, why not bring in some real greenery? Indoor plants improve air quality, overall health and well-being, and have even been shown to increase productivity.
If space is an issue, many herbs love soaking up the sun on the window sill, including parsley, chives, oregano and thyme. Now you can prepare and enjoy tasty meals in your revamped kitchen with a clear conscience!
Have you been through a kitchen renovation? What are your best tips, and what do you wish you’d done differently?