Nothing totally transforms the feel of a home like a freshly-updated kitchen. And when it comes to green remodeling, the kitchen may be the absolute perfect candidate – as anyone with remodeling experience knows, there are just about a million different ways to do it! After all, a kitchen remodel means updating cabinetry, faucets, walls, floors, countertops, appliances, you name it — the possibilities are seriously endless. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the many decisions you’ll need to make for your eco-friendly kitchen remodel, have no fear — we’ve created this 9-step checklist to help you stay focused along your remodel journey. Long story short: focus on water efficiency, energy efficiency, and sustainably-sourced materials to transform your kitchen into a truly sustainable space!

A 9-Step Checklist for an Eco-Friendly Kitchen Remodel

1: Find an Eco-Expert Contractor

Working with a professional who already knows the green options you have to work with is always better than filling somebody in along the way and hoping for the best. You’ll save yourself both time and money by making sure you choose a contractor that speaks the language and knows all about the eco-friendly, non-toxic kitchen you’re looking for!

One great place to find green building professionals: The Green Home Guide. Browse the “Find a Pro” section and you’ll find thousands of pre-screened contracting and green build companies from all over the U.S. If you have a green building supplier near you, you could also stop in and ask if they have any local contractors’ business cards. And before you make your final decision, meet with a few different contractors in person. You’ll be spending a lot of time with the team you choose, and you’ll be relying on their expertise and insight —  make sure your personalities and project vision match up!

2: Choose Eco-Friendly Materials

Countertops, flooring, backsplash — oh my! Choosing materials and bringing a color scheme together might be the funnest part about a kitchen remodel. But before you make your final material decisions, make sure you know their environmental impact. Plenty of sustainable materials, including recycled countertops, FSC-certified cabinets, eco-friendly faucets, and recycled tiling are available to suit any space and any style. A beautiful kitchen is a lovely thing to see. But a beautiful and sustainably-sourced kitchen? Even better!

Need some guidance? Check out these 12 rules for buying eco-friendly materials.

3: Build Better Cabinets

An eco-friendly kitchen simply wouldn’t be complete without non-toxic, sustainable cabinets. Most conventional cabinets, such as those made from plywood, pressed wood, particle board, and medium-density fiberboard, were assembled with glues that contain formaldehyde — a known carcinogen which off-gasses into your air long after the glue dries. Your eco-friendly kitchen deserves better! Choose cabinets built with safer materials like formaldehyde-free woods, solid wood, recycled wood, reclaimed wood, FSC-certified wood, bamboo, or even recycled concrete.

4: Select Water-Efficient Fixtures

Did you know that simply choosing the right eco-friendly faucets can dramatically reduce the amount of water used in your home? Low-flow faucets, like those with the WaterSense label, conserve water without sacrificing the luxurious feel of high water pressure. WaterSense faucets use a maximum of 1.5 gallons per minute and can reduce a sink’s water flow by 30 percent or more, without sacrificing performance. In fact, we could save billions of gallons nationwide each year by retrofitting sink faucets with WaterSense eco-friendly faucets. Incredible!

5: Choose Energy-Efficient Lighting

Natural lighting is clearly the most efficient lighting available — but it’s also, arguably, the most gorgeous. If you can, make use of a skylights or tubular daylighting systems to bring in that precious natural warmth into your space. As for bulbs, make sure to choose LEDs over traditional incandescents. LEDs are extremely energy efficient, available in a wide variety of colors, and typically last 20 times longer than incandescents. That’s right — installing LEDs in your eco-friendly kitchen means it’ll be decades before you need to worry about bulb replacements. And all the while, you’ll be conserving valuable energy and saving on your utility bills.

6: Invest in Energy-Efficient Appliances

Altogether, kitchen appliances typically account for at least 10% of a home’s energy use. That’s a pretty high percentage for one room! By choosing energy-efficient appliances, you’ll reduce your home’s energy demand, helping cut power plant emissions in the process. Plus, who doesn’t love the thought of seeing their electricity bill shrink? Products with the ENERGY STAR seal of approval are typically the best and most efficient appliances available, so when you’re picking out that shiny new refrigerator, oven, and dishwasher, don’t forget to look for the ENERGY STAR label.

7: Use VOC-Free Paints, Finishes, and Coatings

Turns out that “new paint smell” isn’t something that should coat the walls of an eco-friendly home. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are chemicals released as gasses from a variety of products, including household cleaners, new furnishings, and paints. These harmful vapors are still released long after the paint has dried — causing both short- and long-term detrimental health effects. Short-term effects include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and respiratory distress, and research suggests some VOCs can cause cancer. Fortunately, it’s an easy problem to avoid. Choose strictly VOC-free paints for your eco-friendly kitchen to ensure the space is as non-toxic as possible. Check out our guide for more information about picking the right paints.

8: Find Eco-Friendly Flooring

Sustainable hardwood flooring options are aplenty, including everything from FSC-certified wood to reclaimed wood planks. Not a hardwood fan? Recycled tiles, sustainable cork, and bamboo are some of the many eco-friendly flooring options you may want to consider. Eco-friendly flooring manufacturers are particularly skilled at blending sustainability with style. Whatever floor choice you make, you won’t have to sacrifice beauty a bit.

9: Install Energy-Efficient Windows

We simply adore kitchens that make a statement with large, beautiful windows. Who wouldn’t want a great view while doing the dishes? If your eco-friendly kitchen remodel calls for a window replacement, choose high-quality, efficient windows that will help minimize heat transfer between the inside of your home and the outdoors. Windows with the ENERGY STAR label are typically the best choice for efficiency. According to ENERGY STAR, replacing old windows with ENERGY STAR certified windows lowers household energy bills by an average of 12 percent nationwide. Granted, you’re not likely to see a 12 percent drop in your home’s energy use from upgrading the windows in one room, but every little bit helps. Choosing ENERGY STAR windows is one of the best ways to help reduce heating and cooling costs.

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