How to Green Your Kitchen (Refined Magazine)

As the hub of the home, your kitchen plays multiple roles: meal-prep station, storage space, dining room, gathering place. If you’re planning a redesign — or building from scratch — your aim is likely to make the kitchen function as smoothly as possible so it can fulfill its roles seamlessly. But what if the design could function well not only for you and your family, but for the planet?

With a range of sustainable options available, from eco-friendly building materials to water conservation, it’s possible to have a kitchen that performs beautifully while being gentle to the earth. 

Here, we share our top tips to “green” your kitchen. 

Use Sustainable Wood

Not all woods are created — or harvested — equally. The following are your best choices for sustainable design.


Reclaimed wood is any wood that has previously been used, often coming from warehouses, factories, dismantled houses or old barns. The age and imperfections give it character and a naturally distressed look. Best of all, using reclaimed wood in your home gives it a new purpose, saving it from ending up in a landfill. 

Consider using reclaimed wood for your kitchen’s flooring or countertops. Seek out sources locally or online to find quality pieces that you can integrate with your design. It’s best to choose your wood early on in the process, then plan the other finishings around it for a cohesive look. And be sure to learn the story behind the wood — sitting around your kitchen island with friends is instantly more interesting when they find out it’s made from an old grain elevator!

Bamboo and Cork 

If you prefer the appearance of new wood materials in your kitchen, there are two excellent eco-friendly kinds to choose from. The most important factor is that the wood has been harvested sustainably, so whichever type you opt for, make sure it’s FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)-certified. 

The tough, water-resistant and fast-growing bamboo plant makes for a durable floor that’s also sustainable. Bonus: it expands and contracts 50% less than woods such as maple and northern red oak.

Because cork is derived from the bark of the cork oak tree, it can be harvested without harming the tree. Its dense, spongy quality makes it ideal for areas where you’ll be standing (like the kitchen) while also providing noise absorption.

Choose Eco-friendly Paint

If you’ve ever painted anything in your home, you’re likely familiar with the term “low VOC”. VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are chemicals that evaporate easily, entering the air we breathe. In paints, they’re caused by chemical solvents and driers. VOCs are not only bad for the environment, they can cause health problems. 

So, how to minimize the negative impacts of these chemicals in your kitchen? Most importantly, choose latex-based paints over oil-based paints, as they will always have lower VOC levels. Next, seek out options that are low-or-no-VOC in not only the base, but the tint. Lastly, keep the room well ventilated throughout the painting process and for several days after.

Install a Water-Saving Faucet

Water is earth’s most precious resource, yet it is wasted daily in homes around the world. One way to help combat this is by installing a low-flow faucet or aerator in your kitchen, which can reduce the water flow by 30 to 50 percent. Bonus: less water flow means a lower water bill.

Choose Energy Efficient Appliances

When selecting your kitchen’s refrigerator and dishwasher, be sure they come with the ENERGY STAR® symbol, which guarantees the appliances have been tested and certified for energy performance. You’ll save money while conserving energy; a win-win.

Other dishwasher tips: Run a full load, even if it means waiting a few days. And if there’s a heated-dry option on your dishwasher, turn the feature off. (Your dishes can air dry.)

Light the Way

Creating a lighting plan with efficiency in mind will enable you to enjoy its function and ambience while cutting back on energy use. 

In 2018, its common knowledge to opt for LED or CFL bulbs, which consume drastically less electricity than incandescent models. Assuming this is already in place, what else can you do to ensure your lighting is energy efficient?

Install a variety of light sources. This way, you can keep any light that isn’t needed for a specific task turned off. Place the switches in an easily accessible location (such as above counter, on backsplash), making it convenient to adjust different lights accordingly. Your island, sink area, countertop, and stove, for example, can all be lit separately and used as needed, rather than having one or two main lights that are frequently turned on.

Investing in sustainable kitchen design enables you to look forward: to the memories you’ll create there as well as to the planet’s health and longevity. You’ll be one of millions of families who are taking care to design their homes responsibly.

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