Being Sustainable

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Q.
How do I choose sustainable products for my kitchen renovation?  I’m overwhelmed with the remodel as it is.  Is there a way to narrow down the options?  I want to be as green as possible.
-Sue

A.

Home remodeling is very stressful, but it’s great that you are also thinking about the impact of your project on the environment. Not only should you live and work in a healthy space, but also know that the decisions you make affect people and places outside your own home. There are many opportunities to implement sustainable practices during a kitchen remodel and plenty of resources to select from. Take a deep breath and remember that your beautiful new space will be worth your time, effort, and frustration in the end.

The goal of green building is to choose products and materials that use energy efficiently, improve indoor air quality, conserve water, reduce waste, and protect natural ecosystems. You can consult with a certified designer and/or contractor with experience in sustainability in addition to doing some research on your own. The United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Green Home Guide is a good start! greenhomeguide.com

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While researching products that will be purchased for use in your home, look for items that have been certified by a third-party organization such as the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA), Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Environmentally responsible programs have been developed to help consumers easily identify green products. The list below are examples of just a few:

  • Select cabinetry that uses FSC-certified materials, has no added urea formaldehyde, uses low-VOC adhesives and finishes, and/or has the ESP seal – greencabinetsource.org
  • Select appliances that are energy efficient. Look for the Energy Star label – energystar.gov
  • Select plumbing fixtures that conserve water. Look for the WaterSense label – epa.gov/watersense
  • Select paints that are no- or low-VOC and/or has the GREENGUARD label – greenguard.org/files
  • Select interior finish materials that are non-toxic, reusable, renewable, and/or recyclable such as linoleum or cork floors and engineered countertops. Look for the Cradle-to Cradle label – c2ccertified.org
Moreover, you should choose a ventilation hood that vents to the outside rather than recirculates to improve indoor air quality. You can conserve energy by maximizing daylight in the space with efficient windows and selecting materials from local sources to minimize transportation demands.  Lastly, consider donating your old cabinetry, appliances, plumbing and or lighting fixtures to charitable organizations. Someone else may be able to reuse or repurpose them and you may be able to get a good tax deduction.

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Being green doesn’t just end when your remodel is complete. You can continue practices by recycling, composting, reducing waste, buying local foods from farmer’s markets, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, growing your own herbs, limiting use of harsh chemicals, conserving water and electricity in daily routine, and reading books and blogs about sustainability. If you are still feeling overwhelmed with the process, keep in mind that you don’t have to do it all. Do what you can. Any little bit helps!

Good luck with your project! -Danielle