If you’re planning a kitchen remodel in today’s eco-conscious culture, you’ve probably wondered: Can I reduce my kitchen’s environmental impact and still indulge my aesthetic sensibilities? And can I do both without breaking the bank?
In Prefabulous + Almost Off the Grid: Your Path to Building an Energy-Independent Home, Sheri Koones profiles 29 energy-efficient, beautifully designed kitchens that prove that you can indeed have your (healthy, locally made, organic) cake and eat it, too. When beginning an energy-efficient kitchen remodel, focus on materials and appliances, Koones suggests. You’ll provide yourself and your family with a kitchen that showcases stylish contemporary designs while reducing energy consumption.
1. Induction stoves and cooktops: Induction cookers generate heat directly in the pots and pans. They use less energy and heat more quickly and consistently than traditional models. With no hot surface, they are safer. With no trivets or coils to contend with, they are easier to clean. Since the appliance produces no ambient heat, the cooling requirements in the kitchen are drastically reduced. (Note: Beware that you don’t let your induction stove overheat–it will crack!)
2. Foot faucets: Foot-control faucets can reduce the risk of cross-contamination after handling raw meat and fish. They reduce water consumption by providing water in short bursts and making it easy to turn off when not in use. Because less water is used, energy is saved in pumping and heating.
3. Granite and concrete vs. marble: The traditional marble countertop, while beautiful, comes at a great cost to both the homeowner and the environment. In addition to its hefty price tag, marble is generally sourced from far-flung locales, adding “invisible” costs in carbon outlays and supporting an energy-intensive extraction process. In North America, locally sourced granite exists in relative abundance, as does locally produced concrete. The skilled craftsman can use these materials to produce a unique, contemporary countertop that still rivals the traditional in beauty.
4. Lighting: Look for LED (light-emitting diode) lights bulbs, now produced by Edison with regular, screw-in-type bases. An LED bulb, while it will cost you more initially, will use only 25 percent of the energy needed to power an incandescent bulb, and it will light your kitchen for more than 22 years! To eliminate the need to use recessed ceiling lights (whether LED or not) during the day, be sure to install wide, south-facing windows and skylights in your kitchen.
5. Salvaged and recycled materials: Using architectural salvage to construct your kitchen not only keeps usable materials out of landfills, but also conserves natural resources. You can also find companies that use recycled materials like rubber tires to create kitchen sinks, cabinetry and seating (for examples, visit minarc.com).
6. Flooring: Consider choosing a cork floor for your kitchen remodel. Not only is it a durable, hypoallergenic, easy-to-clean material, but, according to Koones, cork can also “be harvested every nine to fourteen years without harming the trees.” And as one homeowner in Koones’ book says, her cork kitchen floor is “the softest material to stand on.”
by Matthew Perez