Building the Ultimate Green Kitchen

Cut down on the amount of materials needed for construction.

Most people have low-quality cabinets made from toxic materials. Those modular particle board deals covered in laminate were manufactured with formaldehyde and bad-for-the-environment adhesives. Not only did they take a toll on air quality when they were made, they continue to release minute amounts of toxic fumes (called off-gassing) that you’re breathing. Or perhaps your cabinets are high-quality wooden ones. Are they crafted from sustainable forests? Probably not.

Open shelving makes the kitchen look larger and provides easy access. It’s also a fun way to show off collections and pretty dishes.

Frameless cabinetry is widely used in Europe.

When looking for green cabinets, you have a few options:

» Consider installing open shelving or frameless cabinets to cut down on the amount of materials needed for construction. That way even if you’re using particle board and laminate from Ikea, you’re at least using a lot less of it.

» Reface or replace cabinet doors rather than the entire system. You reduce the amount of waste and can save 50 percent in cost, while getting a new look. Be sure to use environmentally friendly products and materials for construction.

If you want to replace your entire cabinet system, it will cost you. You’ll have to do a custom installation with cabinets built from salvaged lumber or new wood from an FSC-certified forest. Or you’ll want to find alternative materials made from recycled goods, produced and installed free of harmful toxins or chemicals.

» Reduce your carbon footprint by finding a green cabinet-builder or -dealer within a 500-mile radius of you, or a contractor willing to follow your green rules. GreenHomeGuide is an invaluable resource that connects local green builders and vendors with consumers. If your contractor is new to green building or you are a DIYer, you can find raw building materials at Columbia Forest Products, which makes nontoxic particle board; Smith & Fong Plyboo, which sells sustainably harvested bamboo; and TerraMai, CitiLog, and Timeless Timber, which all sell salvaged wood. And before you throw out your old cabinet system, think about reusing it in the garage or laundry room for extra storage space.

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