Building the Ultimate Green Kitchen

CHOW’s ecoconscious remodel guide

You’ve switched to recycled paper products, tap water, and a cloth bag to carry your groceries. Now you want to remodel your kitchen in an ecoconscious fashion.

Is it possible to have a 100 percent green kitchen? Yes, if you are prepared to install a wind generator in your backyard and start living off the grid. For the rest of us, there are some completely realistic changes we could make that would have long-lasting effects.

While CHOW doesn’t recommend unnecessary refurbishing—part of being green is maximizing what you have, not creating more waste—there are many new smart, environmentally friendly options available if you do want to freshen things up.

We took a look at floors, cabinets, countertops, appliances, and a few other odds and ends and asked:

  • » Is it nontoxic?
  • » Does it contain recycled content, or can it be recycled after use?
  • » Is it biodegradable?
  • » Is it sustainably harvested?
  • » Is it made from renewable materials?
  • » Does it reduce energy or water consumption?
  • » Does it meet or beat strict European indoor air quality standards?
  • » Is it durable so it will not need to be replaced?
  • » Does it come from a green business?
  • » Is it the best in its class?

Products and materials that received an overwhelming yes to a majority of the questions made the cut, and are featured in this guide. So dig in and let the greening begin!

What It All Means

CHOW’s green glossary

» Biodegradable: Material that has the ability to be broken down naturally by microorganisms.

» Carbon Footprint: A measure of the impact human activity has on the planet in terms of greenhouse gases produced. Measured in units of carbon dioxide.

» Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): An international nonprofit organization devoted to responsibly managing the world’s forests. FSC ensures that forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way. Forests, manufacturers, and retailers that meet FSC’s strict standards are given FSC certification.

» Off-Gassing: The evaporation of VOCs (see “Volatile Organic Compound” below) from certain solids and liquids.

» Reclaim: Obtain and use material—retaining its original purpose—that would otherwise go to waste.

» Recycle: Taking waste material and turning it into usable raw material to make a new product. Postconsumer waste is materials or products that have served their original purpose—generally garbage thrown out by individuals. Postindustrial waste is the leftover material from manufacturing processes.

» Reduce: Cutting back on consumption rates to decrease waste.

» Renewable: A resource that is able to naturally regenerate itself faster than it’s consumed.

» Reuse: Finding a new way to use a product instead of throwing it out or recycling it.

» Sustainable: A process or system that can be maintained indefinitely without impact on its environment or other systems that may depend on it.

» Volatile Organic Compound (VOC): An air-polluting organic chemical compound like methane or formaldehyde that is emitted as a gas from solids and liquids. Many VOCs are greenhouse gases and suspected carcinogens.

Michele Foley is a former associate editor at CHOW.

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