Remodeling a kitchen is an expensive process, and those who seek environmentally friendly products but are operating under a tight budget may feel they can’t afford to go green. Fortunately, the opposite is true. While there are many excellent choices for those for whom money is no object, some lesser known and much less expensive options offer the same environmental benefits. With a little knowledge and research, remodeling green can be easy and within your budget.
When seeking green kitchen cabinets, countertops, and flooring, the three areas to consider are materials, emissions, and whether it is a regional product. Each of these can have environmental advantages, and while finding products that qualify in multiple areas is certainly possible, some seek a kitchen with all recycled products or one with the minimum of harmful emissions. It is up to you to determine which area of green is most important to you.
Your cabinets will be the toughest part of your kitchen to bring under budget, as Forest Sustainability Council certified wood cabinets – or those made from recycled wood particle board – can get expensive. You can seek out local custom cabinet makers who use water based glues and adhesives (to limit the amount of harmful formaldehyde,) but chances are they will come at a premium. An affordable option can be found among the members of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association’s Environmental Stewardship Program. An article on the program, including a list of companies, can be found here. Cabinet makers in the program lower the environmental impact of their products through their manufacturing process, often with dramatic results. They are encouraged to lower the formaldehyde level of their cabinets, but you will have to do a little research to find if the KCMA-ESP cabinets offered at your local kitchen and bath dealer are lower emitting cabinets. Some companies in the program, like Kitchen Kompact, offer only a limited selection of styles and colors, but are some of the least expensive cabinets on the market.
Easily the least expensive green countertop available is a recycled particle board laminate countertop, sealed with a water-based glue. Countertop fabricators are only now starting to realize the demand for these, as green builders love the combination of no emissions, recycled product, and very low price tag. They should price out at about a quarter of the cost of other, more popular green countertops. A growing number of recycled particle board manufacturers, like SkyBlend, Vesta, and Boise Evergreen, are popping up to fill the demand. For more information on green countertops, click here.
You can’t beat linoleum for its combination of low cost and high environmental benefits. Linoleum is made from linseed oil, which is a renewable resource, and is hypoallergenic. It’s easy to keep clean and has evolved into cool looking patterns. When purchasing your linoleum, make sure it is true linoleum and not a “linoleum-like” polyvinyl flooring, which isn’t made from linseed oil and may contain higher quantities of semi-toxic flame retardant.
When it comes to plumbing, just keep it simple. You can get an inexpensive stainless steel drop-in sink and be comforted by the fact that all stainless steel made today contains at least 50% and up to 80% recycled steel. If you are so inclined, many faucets can be fit with an inexpensive aerator that cuts water usage.
Always seek the ENERGY STAR rating on your appliances. To save money, you can limit the bells and whistles on your appliances but still keep the energy savings. Many are now using an inexpensive device that turns off all appliances with one switch, further reducing energy usage. You can also wire overhead lights to their own switches so you can only turn on the lights you need, rather than all of them every time.
If you are going to splurge on one area, get a vent that vents to the outside. This will greatly increase your indoor air quality. Many tile companies offer beautiful and inexpensive recycled glass tile, or, if you are artistic, create your own tile backsplash with a random collection of tile pieces and close-out tile.
If you are determined to remodel green, don’t let budget constraints get in your way. The products you want are out there and in your budget. It may take a little detective work on your part to find them all, but that’s part of the fun, isn’t it?
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