By Derek Lotts, Guest Contributor

A few years ago, being “green” in the kitchen meant only saving some water and using cutting boards made of bamboo. However, people today want more in terms of being eco-friendly, so they opt for sustainable materials and energy-efficient appliances, too. Here’s how you can design a functional and beautiful kitchen using eco-friendly materials and appliances, and save both money and the environment.

 

Use sustainable materials

Today, there is a variety of different sustainable and eco-friendly materials you can incorporate into your kitchen. Probably the latest green trend is using bamboo. This fast-growing wood is sustainable and sturdy, which makes it perfect for everything – from flooring to cutting boards. Cork is another sustainable material option. It’s made from the bark of a tree that can be harvested without harming the tree. Cork is a great material that’s hypoallergenic, sound-absorbing, and naturally resistant to mold and mildew (which makes it perfect for kitchen floors). Another eco-friendly kitchen option is countertops made of recycled stone chips. They look just like granite, are durable, but leave a smaller eco-footprint. Other materials you should consider are natural cotton and wool for your chairs, window dressings, and kitchen rugs since artificial fabrics require the use of harmful chemicals in their production.

Avoid VOCs

VOCs are chemicals that are released into the air at room temperature. They pollute your indoor air and can cause many health problems. VOCs are found in many household items from paints, varnishes, and adhesives to carpets, upholstery, and even cleaning products. So, if you can, make sure that all products you have in your kitchen are no-VOC or low-VOC.

 

Reuse and repurpose

If your old kitchen is ready to retire, don’t go looking for a store-bought one right away. You can check out antiques and salvaged items first. Also, try to think outside the box. For instance, you can turn a worktable into a kitchen island, or use your old bookshelf for kitchen utensils, pots, and pans. Additionally, before throwing your old cabinets away, you can offer them on Craigslist or Freecycle to keep them out of the landfill.

Spice it up with lighting

Get creative with lighting! Try reclaiming something and using it in your kitchen. For instance, if you can get your hands on an antique library lamp or sconce, ship lights or factory lighting, they look great. These lighting solutions add character and personality to your kitchen and prevent some items from ending up in a dump. Also, make sure to replace your old bulbs with LEDs that are much more energy-efficient and have a much longer life span. Plus, they will provide your kitchen with more light making your kitchen tasks much easier.

Get Energy Star appliances

If you want your kitchen to be more energy-efficient, you can replace your old appliances with Energy Star ones. For instance, energy-efficient Maytag dishwashers waste far less energy when it comes to water and electricity use, plus they do what they are designed for even better than your old ones. It saves you money and gives our planet a break. It’s a win-win situation.

Make it timeless

No matter how green your kitchen is, if you need to replace it every few years, you’re creating a huge energy, resource and money waste. A truly eco-friendly kitchen is the kitchen that is designed and decorated to be useful and beautiful for many years to come.

Explore more inspiring home and garden ideas on Elemental Green!