About 39% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions come from buildings like our homes, both from their construction and operation, according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). But amazingly, up to 85% of the country’s electrical needs could be met if all buildings adopted energy-efficient practices. Green practices, features and technologies that can be utilized in the kitchen are almost too numerous to list. Here are five of the lesser-known ways to green up your kitchen.
1. Find a Green Pro
If you’ve got a kitchen remodel lined up for 2012, now is the time to consider green design elements. When looking for contractors, ask direct questions about green practices. Designers and kitchen remodeling contractors who stay current with industry trends and products are likely to be knowledgeable in green construction, but you should ask if they have practical experience, too.
Builders with LEED accreditation, in particular, can help you plan for green options during the design stage, saving you money down the line. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the credential program run by the USGBD.
2. Green Up Your Materials
You can’t have a green kitchen without green materials. First, look to your largest fixtures in the kitchen: the cabinets, countertops, flooring, appliances, lighting and backsplash. Anywhere you can incorporate green will make a huge impact, particularly in your appliances, which will help you earn back the money invested through lower energy costs for the life of the appliances.
3. Look for the Label
Many consumers know that products with an Energy Star label have been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as products that will save money over time through energy-efficiency, but other labels can indicate green products as well. Wood products marked with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label indicate that the wood has been harvested in a sustainable fashion. A Greenguard label indicates that a product has low chemical emissions.
4. Eco-Friendly Glass Tiles
Fashioned from sand, an almost limitless material, glass products are some of the greenest around. Glass tiles are a good choice for kitchen backsplashes. Easy to clean, their reflective surface adds ambient light to the typically dark areas under cabinets. Look for products made from recycled glass for extra green points. Countertops made from pieces of glass mixed with cement, concrete or resin are a decorative and functional green product as well.
5. Have You Heard of Paper Countertops?
One of the greenest countertops around is made from paper. Recycled paper that has received FSC certification is mixed with formaldehyde-free and non-petroleum based resins, such as resin made from the shells of cashew nuts. Installed using standard woodworking tools, the product is resistant to both heat and stains and is available in a wide range of colors. They’re beautiful and definitely worth checking out.
6. Cork It
Cork is actually the bark of the cork tree. It can be harvested every nine years without damaging the living tree. Cork flooring is one of the easiest flooring materials to install, as it can be placed directly over existing flooring materials. Once installed, cork flooring is treated with an acrylic sealer to make it resistant to spills and stains. Soft and warm under bare feet, cork flooring has a natural spring to it that makes it a good choice for homes with young children, providing some protection against slips and falls.