How to Design an Eco-Friendly Kitchen
Though going green in the kitchen will save you money on energy costs, eco-friendly products have a reputation for being expensive, frumpy and difficult to find.
The good news: Earth-friendly products are available in a wider range of styles and costs than ever before, so you can go any shade of green you desire.
According to CNN.com, although a total green rebuild would cost 20 percent to 30 percent more, you can still get results by spending less, often as little as 2 percent to 4 percent over standard construction.
"You can make a kitchen somewhat green with no extra expense or difficulty," agrees Scott Martin, the founder of Blue Plum Design, a kitchen design firm in San Francisco that specializes in green kitchen renovations.
Appliances approved by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Energy Star program use 10 percent to 50 percent less energy and water than standard models, reducing energy costs. Martin says that energy-efficient appliances, improved insulation and thermally efficient doors and windows are standard inclusions in his remodeling jobs. "These products will help almost any kitchen be more efficient and comfortable," he says.
In addition to the energy cost savings and lower environmental impact, there are health benefits. The U.S. EPA estimates that Americans spend an average of 90 percent of their time indoors, and the concentration of pollutants indoors is often 10 to 100 times greater than outdoors. The kitchen contributes its share of indoor air pollution through cooking fumes and gases from flooring, paints, cabinets and countertops.
Green products reduce exposure to air pollutants. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) typically are emitted by paints, wood preservatives and other sources. These gases have short- and long-term health effects, including symptoms that range from eye, nose and throat irritation to cancer. Eco-safe paints are VOC-free, as are cabinets, countertops and flooring.