Green Materials for Remodeling your Kitchen

A gorgeous kitchen with countertops made with recycled coal fly ash and natural black pigment,  vaulted, recycled wood ceiling, and lots of natural light.
Your kitchen is one of the most important areas of your home. The nerve center of your family’s nourishment, the kitchen usually has more appliances than any other room in the house.

This is where water, gas, and electricity come together and it is important to know what you can do to make these elements interact most efficiently.

My husband and I renovated our own kitchen and did our research to make it a green machine. So today, I want to share with you what we learned during our kitchen transformation. Here are some important factors you should consider if you want to keep it green when renovating your kitchen.

recycled fly ash & concrete countertops with a natural black pigmentLeaps and bounds have been made in recent years as builders and manufacturers have been inspired to think more carefully about the footprint they are leaving on the environment. Increased consumer awareness has resulted in improved business practices and attention to sustainability in every industry, including home improvement.

From certified green contractors to recycled DIY materials, you as a homeowner now have more options than ever before in this arena.

You don’t even have to be planning a full blown remodeling project in order to take advantage of what is out there.

Getting Started

If you do happen to be starting a new project with green sensibilities in mind, it is important to start with the basics of looking for green materials.

Step 1 – Make sure you know what green actually means

There are a few basic criteria to consider when determining a product’s resource efficiency such as recyclability, durability, local availability, and sustainability. Once you develop a good eye for spotting building products that meet these criteria, you can apply them to other areas of your purchasing for maximum economic impact.

Step 2 – Know your certifications

These are issued by various reputable organizations as a way to help conscientious consumers choose the most environmentally responsible options for their money. They are issued for all kinds of products and services, and it may be kind of hard to keep them straight since some of these organizations are more reputable than others. Here are a few of the most important certification labels to keep an eye out for when remodeling, including some specifically Australian ones.

Not all are relevant in every country, but many are international.

Step 3

Let the knowledge you gained from steps one and two guide you into action as you take a closer look at the options available in your individual areas of interest.

Insulation

Studies show that heating and cooling systems account for roughly 40 percent of home energy use. If you suspect this to be a problem in your home, definitely have a certified professional come by and conduct a home energy audit on your house before doing any serious remodeling. This will tell you if, how, and from where energy is escaping your home. By starting with a full report on this information, you will know right away whether or not insulation is something you need to consider or budget for.

Standard insulation materials are sometimes harmful to the environment or human health. If you decide to upgrade the insulation in your home, remember that recycled and biodegradable options are now available:

  • Soybean insulation foam
  • Recycled Cotton
  • Wool insulation

Windows

Kitchen Window detail with wooden blindsMany older houses may have windows that were not installed according to current building code standards or properly maintained over years of use. This can result in a significant amount of air leakage which is a common channel for energy to escape from the home.

Technology and awareness have accelerated the efficiency of window construction and installation in recent years, so you may be surprised at the difference new windows can make when it comes to energy consumption in your home.

A home energy audit is the best way to find out exactly how necessary it is to replace windows when remodeling. However, there are a few signs you can look for if you want to decide for yourself. Pay attention to temperature changes when standing near your windows. If the heat is on and it is cold outside, energy efficient windows should provide a seamless barrier to the cold. If you start to feel outside cold or breezes through closed windows, it is probably time to get them replaced, and there is a good chance you will see a significant difference in your power bill when you do.

Aside from that, Metal window frames conduct heat. Many old houses and apartment buildings were constructed with metal window frames. However, we have since learned that metal is not an efficient material for insulation. If you have metal window frames, you should definitely consider replacing them with double glazed (storm windows) or fiberglass frames for maximum energy efficiency.

If you want to really go for the green in this arena, keep an eye out for windows made from recycled materials when choosing your replacements. At least one British company is known for manufacturing complete window units including glass, frames, and fixtures made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials. Lastly, be on the lookout for Australia’s Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) on products. The scheme indicates how well it will keep in winter warmth and how well it will protect you from unwanted summer heat.

Building Materials

There are recycled options for just about every building material on the market, so always keep an eye out for any relevant certifications when choosing the best product for your home.

Installing overhead cabinets in a Recycled Kitchen

I like to also give special priority to locally produced materials for my remodeling projects. Some of them may not be certified accordingly, but they get green points for being handmade instead of factory produced, or not needing to be shipped to me from a faraway place. This is an especially useful consideration when choosing tiles or other materials for mosaic designs.

Here are a few other eco-friendly materials to consider when remodeling your kitchen:

Bench tops

  • Recycled aluminum, glass or ceramic tiles
  • Aluminum shavings embedded in resin, a la Alkemi
  • Recycled glass embedded in resin, a la EnviroGlass
  • Sustainable wood surfaces

Cabinets and Floors

  • Recycled or salvaged wood
  • Formaldehyde-free alternatives
  • Finishes low in Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  • Wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council
  • Wood from trees that mature quickly, such as Bamboo and Lyptus
  • Recycled linoleum flooring

Lighting

Be sure to choose energy efficient light fixtures when remodeling any room in your home. Again, keep an eye out for the special labels and certifications when choosing these products. You can also switch to LED options, or increase the efficiency of existing fixtures simply by switching to compact fluorescent bulbs.

Remodeling can be a great way to increase the value of your home. It can also be an opportunity to ensure that your house is environmentally and economically sound. Home improvements are a big investment, but if done properly, they can increase the value of your home as well as the quality of your life. If you are thinking about remodeling, the best way to truly improve your home is to consider choosing green materials.

Now over to you – have you done any renovations using green products and techniques? Or do you have any questions for me, about the suggestions in this article or just about green building choices generally? Leave a comment and let me know!

Profile picture Karla JenningsKarla Jennings enjoys her life clean, green, and in order. She is an interior designer, a writer for Maid Brigade cleaning services and she manages her own home improvement blog dedicated to home living and green cleaning.

Image credits: Jeremy Levine Design & Red Moon Sanctuary

Shared at IBOT along with many other fab posts.

  14 comments for “Green Materials for Remodeling your Kitchen

  1. August 6, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Wow, there is a lot of info in there, thank you so much for sharing. We are looking at a new kitchen in a few months so hopefully I will be able to put some of this to use, though I worry about the cost on our already way to small budget. Sigh.

    Leaving some fairy wishes and butterfly kisses from #teamIBOT
    Rhianna recently posted..Forgive me readers for I have not bloggedMy Profile

    • August 8, 2013 at 1:24 am

      Hi Rhianna!

      Thanks so much for reading and enjoying my piece on eco-friendly kitchen remodeling. And yes, unfortunately green alternative tend to be a bit more in price, however, in the long run they can save you money and are great for the environment too (obviously). Just another thing to keep in mind when planning your remodel.

      Hope all goes well! I would love to hear about your final product.
      Karla Jennings recently posted..The Importance of Indoor Air QualityMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      August 8, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Thanks for the butterfly kisses Rhianna :) Good luck on your kitchen reno!

  2. August 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Fantastic information!
    What a wonderful blog. A green kitchen would have to be one of the biggest assets you could give a home X
    Author Bek Mugridge (@bekmugridge) recently posted..RAW energy Date, Pecan & Macadamia SliceMy Profile

    • August 8, 2013 at 1:29 am

      Thank you so much! I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve updated my kitchen to be more eco-friendly and love the look and feel great about the decision. Highly recommend it to you and every other “kitchen owner.”

      Take care!
      Karla Jennings recently posted..The Importance of Indoor Air QualityMy Profile

  3. August 7, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Excellent post, very useful information. Thanks for sharing. i am tagging this for my “one day” kitchen update.
    Kyrstie @ A Fresh Legacy recently posted..Rice Cooker “Fried Rice”My Profile

    • August 8, 2013 at 1:52 am

      Hi Krstie!

      Thank for the read and the tag! I love sharing my knowledge and stories with whoever is interested and willing to listen. I would love to write something with for your blog on a home improvement / eco related topic. Shoot me an email if you would be interested.

      Take care!
      Karla Jennings recently posted..The Importance of Indoor Air QualityMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      August 8, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Kyrstie – Me too! :)

  4. August 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I love that you can do it and still have a nice looking kitchen!
    We’re renting so we don’t get much choice really in how our kitchen looks or works at all unfortunately.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..When PMT Comes to Play #IBOTMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      August 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      That’s a bummer about the effect of renting. But yeah, gorgeous kitchen in the pics hey? Not cheap though, I’m thinkin’!

  5. August 9, 2013 at 2:41 am

    This is great and very green! Thanks for sharing, it’s giving me some great ideas for our kitchen. Great post!

  6. August 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    We nearly went nuts looking for a bench top for our kitchen that was big enough and also not horrible to the environment… ended up with recycled timber made into a huge slab of wood… nearly killed us getting it in place but it is amazing!!
    katepickle recently posted..Toddler?My Profile

    • Kirsten
      August 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Sounds lovely Kate – that’s exactly what I’d like for my future kitchen (at the moment we have the, rather ugly, kitchen our house had when we bought it. Sadly, it’s going to have to stay that way for some time yet…).

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    roofing service Grapevine TX recently posted..roofing service Grapevine TXMy Profile

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