•Learn about green building, and how you can incorporate it into your kitchen.
•Get tips on how to cut costs by being earth-friendly.
Green building is not only great for the environment, it can be easy on your wallet as well. What used to be considered an expensive building option reserved for homeowners willing to sacrifice comfort and aesthetic appeal is now becoming a logical and economical choice for any lifestyle.
"Green building doesn't have to be more expensive than standard building, especially if we're discussing renovations" says Hannah Purdy, architect and designer with Walsh & Purdy Architects. "There are more and more products coming on the market all the time - from pressed paper countertops to denim insulation."
A green-built kitchen can save a lot of money, cutting water, energy and product replacement costs. Here are some tips on how to make your kitchen friendly to the environment, as well as to your bank account.
Water saving fixtures: Install low-flow faucets and faucet aerators. Touchless faucets help prevent waste by dispensing only what's needed, and hot-water faucets eliminate the need to run the water as it heats.
- Floors & Cabinets: Use materials that are rapidly replenished and locally available, such as bamboo, wheat straw, or cork. "Finding products that are being manufactured locally will make a product greener by limiting the amount of oil used for transportation" says Purdy. Rapidly renewable materials like bamboo, wheat straw and cork are great for floors and cabinets.
Avoid wood that contains formaldehyde to increase indoor air quality.
- Countertops: Recycled materials like glass, rubber, paper, and linoleum work well for a variety of surfaces.
- Appliances: "A green kitchen is best served with energy saving appliances" says Purdy. "Many appliances are Energy Star rated. Also, getting the smallest refrigerator one can will save energy and money."
- Windows: Heaters and air conditioners use a lot of energy. Strategically placed windows can help reduce costs by letting the sun in or increasing air flow. Purdy suggests using multi-layered curtains to retain heat in winter and block the sun's heat in the summer.
- Paint: Use low- or no-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paints to maintain indoor air quality.
- Lighting: Buy CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) or LED bulbs. Both use less energy and last much longer than incandescent bulbs.
- Sustainability: Use durable materials to save product replacement costs and reduce waste. Materials like concrete and slate are extremely durable and versatile. If you're remodeling, try to reuse as many materials as possible.
Water heater: According to Purdy, an instant hot water heater is the best choice, because it limits the amount of energy being used to keep water hot. Gas water heaters save more energy than electric, and can be engineered to heat both the building and the water. If your water heater is warm to the touch, it could use insulation. Pre-cut jackets or blankets are relatively cheap, and can save up to 9% in water heating costs.
- Maintenance: Clean your kitchen often, with natural cleaners. Vinegar, salt, and baking soda help fight grime and deodorize, and are not nearly as harmful when flushed down the drain as typical household cleaners.
While building green can save money in the short term, living green is what really makes a difference. The most important change we can make as consumers is to our habits. Don't leave your faucet running, recycle as much as possible, and use water and energy efficient settings on your dishwasher.
See green building in action with this Harlem, NY, home remodel.
Find out more about water saving products.