Welcome to Part II of how to make your kitchen eco-friendly. In Part I of this series of articles, we examined the bones of the kitchen so to speak, discussing cupboards, countertops, backsplash, flooring, and paint. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can check it out here.
In this article, we look at making eco-friendly choices when it comes to kitchen sinks, lighting, and large appliances. We are still concentrating on the bones of the kitchen, heading into some meat in more articles to follow, so stay tuned for those!
You have your eco-friendly countertops, cabinets, and backsplash all picked out and maybe even installed. Awesome, you are well on your way to a sustainable, green kitchen. Take some time to revel in your accomplishments and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!
Now it is time to tackle even more of your kitchen. Starting with the sink. You have to wash dishes somewhere, am I right?
There are some really cool, unique eco-friendly options when it comes to kitchen sinks. No need to sacrifice style for an environmentally sound choice. You can have your cake and eat it too (then wash the plate in your awesome sink!).
Whether you’re looking for an artisan, one of a kind sink or one from a major manufacturer, you should be able to find an eco-friendly kitchen sink that suits your style and needs.
Wow! These sinks look amazing! I am not generally one to go crazy over a functional object like a sink, but man, copper sinks make a statement. If you are looking for a unique focal point for your kitchen, a copper sink is it! As usual, we will look at the upsides and downsides as well as different manufacturers you could choose if you decide to go copper.
- unique and stylish
- long lasting
- rust resistant
- antibacterial in nature
- natural patina will develop- making it even more charming
- sensitive to harsh cleaning ingredients- simple soap and water is best for cleaning
- may be susceptible to scratches and dents, depending on the finish used
Copper sinks are available to purchase at big box stores like Home Depot. However, you may wish to purchase your sink directly from the manufacturer especially given the price. You can then be certain that you are getting exactly what you want while ensuring that it is actually made from recycled copper. Here are a couple of manufacturers you may want to check out.
Premier Copper Products uses a 99.7% pure “grade A” copper that has been reclaimed and recycled. Their sinks feature a naturally beautiful patina that also comprises antibacterial properties (don’t let that claim fool you, it is not unique to this particular company as all copper has antibacterial properties). As well, their packaging is recyclable and compostable.
They manufacture both apron and traditional style kitchen sinks with different patterns to choose from. Their traditional sinks come in a wide range of choice from single to double basin, as well as colors, textures, and finishes. There is no shortage of design elements to choose from so incorporating a copper sink into your kitchen should be a breeze.
Copper Sinks Online make handcrafted copper sinks from recycled and repurposed copper which may have otherwise ended up in a landfill.
The recycled materials are melted, purified and refined into high-grade copper, before being hammered in an open copper forge into one-of-a-kind pieces of art.
There are a ton of design choices when it comes to traditional and apron kitchen sinks. Finding one that is right for you should not be an issue.
No matter what brand you go with when choosing your copper sink, try to make sure they use recycled copper. Overall, copper makes a beautiful, durable, eye-catching sink that you will enjoy for years and years to come.
Yes, that classic stainless steel sink that you are probably using in your kitchen right now is eco-friendly! It is 100% recyclable at the end of its life, so you can feel good about choosing a traditional stainless steel sink to wash your dishes in.
Is stainless steel the right material for your kitchen sink? Let’s explore the upsides and downsides.
- corrosion and rust resistant
- pore-free- will not harbor harmful bacteria
- stain resistant
- many design options available
- easily maintained
- can scratch and dent
- prone to water spots
- limited color options
With that being said, there are some options that are more eco-friendly than others when choosing a stainless steel sink. You can, of course, buy a stainless steel sink from Home Depot or another big box store, which is recyclable at the end of its life.
However, another option is a sink made from recycled stainless steel. This is a great environmentally conscious option you might want to consider.
They have a ton of selection of stainless steel sinks. No matter what style you are looking for, you are bound to find it at Just Sinks.
As a member of U.S. Green Building Council, Just Sinks uses 90% Recycled Product Content from manufacturing to product packaging, allowing them to be used in LEED projects.
Their manufacturing facility is also doing its part for the environment by recycling and reusing oil used for polishing work stations, as well as recycling metal sludge used in the polishing process, among other initiatives.
Elkay is a family owned American company that started in the 1920’s. Their sinks are made in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council and can be used in LEED projects. As well, their sinks are made with 60% recycled material, in addition to being 100% recyclable at the end of their life.
Now that you have chosen an awesome eco-friendly sink for your kitchen, it’s time to choose an equally awesome faucet. An eco-friendly faucet is not only one that is made from recycled materials and recyclable at the end of its life, but also one that is water efficient.
How do you choose a water-efficient faucet?
It’s not that hard, luckily. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a WaterSense program that makes it a breeze to find water efficient faucets. Here is the gist of the program:
WaterSense-labeled products and services are certified to use at least 20 percent less water, save energy, and perform as well as or better than regular models.
Look for this symbol in stores like Home Depot to make shopping for water-efficient faucets much easier. Here are a couple of manufacturers that really hit the mark when it comes to eco-friendly faucets.
Moen is a huge company. You probably have a Moen faucet somewhere in your house right now. That is one of the reasons why it is so amazing that they have a sustainability mindset and have numerous recycling and reusing initiatives in place, including:
- recycling nearly 82% of waste from the manufacturing process
- recycling almost 20% of all water used in the manufacturing process
- using some recycled materials in most of their products
- recycling more than 13 million pounds of metal, 6.5 million pounds of cardboard and 3.8 million pounds of solid waste
- converting office practices to include only recycled paper and soy-based inks for copies
Along with these environmentally conscious practices, Moen is also a partner with the EPA, United States Green Building Council (USGBC) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
With a huge selection of faucet styles to choose from, finding the perfect match for your kitchen should be pretty easy.
Delta boasts reducing the flow rate of their faucet from 2.2 to 1.5-1.8 gpm (depending on the model). To put those numbers into perspective, the decrease will result in water savings of up to 18-32% respectively. If you think you need more flow than 1.5 gpm, no problem, there is a toggle button to switch to the normal 2.2 gpm when necessary.
As well as manufacturing water-efficient faucets, Delta is a WaterSense partner, having won manufacturer partner of the year twice.
Unique and original cabinet door pulls and handles are a great way to add a little bit of je ne sais quoi into your kitchen.
Add a pop of color with recycled glass and clay door knobs from Paloma Pottery. These colorful door knobs will certainly be an eye-catching feature in your kitchen.
If you are wanting a more traditional look, but still unique and one of a kind, try uncommon goods, they make drawer pulls out of sea stone and stainless steel. The sea stone is hand gathered by employees and manufactured into beautiful objects, including drawer pulls. Uncommon goods have a focus on sustainability and is a member of B Corp, which is an independent third-party organization focusing on sustainability practices of participating companies. Give these cabinet knobs a try and uncommon goods will donate $1 to a charity of your choice. It’s win-win for everyone!
This is definitely one area that should not be overlooked when designing your eco-friendly kitchen. The right lighting can make or break the whole atmosphere of your kitchen (or any room for that matter). The kitchen is generally a multi-use space, being used for prepping food, cooking, eating, and often times a gathering area and workspace of sorts for you and your family. With that being said, there are a few different types of lighting to consider when designing your kitchen or if you desire more light in your current kitchen.
Ambient kitchen lighting
This is the overall base layer in the kitchen. It generally shines from the ceiling, be it recessed, track or other types of fixture. Ambient lighting essentially lights up where your feet hit the floor.
Recessed lighting is a great way to light up a kitchen. It can be placed in a grid or line pattern to provide the most light. However, if it does not work for you, track lighting is a great option. Just make sure the fixtures spread a wide beam of light and do not focus on one particular area. This will ensure your kitchen is lit evenly with minimal glare.
Task lighting is a very important, yet overlooked type of lighting for your kitchen. It lights up your workspace, AKA your countertops. It is most likely going to be under-cabinet lighting.
Task lighting is important to get right in your kitchen because you are using sharp objects to prepare delicious food and the more light the better to ensure safety. A shadow cast down in the wrong spot could spell disaster to your fingers! Don’t fret if under-cabinet lighting is not an option for you, wall sconces can work great as well.
This type of lighting is more design based than functional. It’s the area where you get to have a little fun with your lighting fixture without worrying too much about how well it lights an area.
Accent lighting is typically found above your kitchen island, table, and/or sink. It’s your chance to add a real conversation piece to your kitchen.
Take a look at Ylighting for inspiration and to get your creative juices flowing! Have some fun choosing a unique statement piece for your kitchen.
Now that you have an idea of what type of lighting fixtures should go into your kitchen, it’s time to choose the right bulbs to go in them.
You want to be using high-efficiency light bulbs that have earned an ENERGY STAR rating. It is easy to get overwhelmed in the light bulb aisle at Walmart or Home Depot. The number of bulbs seems to multiply every time you are in need of replacing them. To avoid picking out the cheapest bulb in the aisle because there is too much choice and it’s the path of least resistance, try keeping this in mind.
- choose halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s), or light-emitting diodes (LED’s) over traditional incandescents
- they use 25-80% less energy than traditional incandescents
- they last 3-25 times longer
Yes, energy-efficient light bulbs will cost more up front but you will reap the savings on your energy bill as well as having the convenience of not subjecting yourself to the dreaded light bulb aisle or the hassle of changing your light bulb as often since they last a long time.
General Green Lighting Tips
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing lighting fixtures and light bulbs for your kitchen.
- Use a dimmer switch when possible. Using different intensities of light throughout the day can save you energy and money.
- LED’s are the most efficient light bulb. Choose these whenever possible over all other light bulbs.
- Make sure you are using ENERGY STAR certified products. These are guaranteed to be energy efficient, last longer and save you money in the long run.
The first place to start when choosing eco-friendly appliances for your kitchen is, now say it with me, ENERGY STAR! Yes, of course, choosing ENERGY STAR rated appliances ensures you are purchasing energy efficient appliances that will save you money and help protect our climate WITHOUT sacrificing performance.
If every appliance purchased in the United States this year were ENERGY STAR certified, we would prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from 215,000 cars—and save $360 million in annual energy costs.
Appliances that earn the ENERGY STAR label comes with an energy guide that tells you how much energy is used to operate each appliance and provides an energy scale for you to compare products. It also lists approximate annual operating costs. However, your exact costs will depend on local utility rates and types and sources of energy. Thus ensuring any decision you make regarding appliances in your home will be an informed one.
An ENERGY STAR certified fridge uses less energy than a 60 watt light bulb! It is also 15% more efficient than a non-certified fridge and costs about $50 a year to run. To contrast, an older refrigerator could cost you upwards of $300 each year to run.
Trying to find ENERGY STAR rated refrigerators is not a problem. Head down to your local Home Depot or other big box store and have your pick of brands and styles. GE, Frigidaire, and Samsung are just a few brands that offer ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators.
In addition to choosing an ENERGY STAR certified refrigerator, here are a few general tips to help keep your fridge use as energy efficient as possible day to day.
Energy Saving Tips
- Set your fridge to 35-38 degrees Fahrenheit
- Position your fridge away from any sources of heat such as the oven, dishwasher, or direct sunlight from a window
- Leave a few inches between the wall and the fridge to allow proper air circulation
- Make sure your door seals are airtight, replace them if they are not
- Keep the door closed! Shoo away lingering kids who seem stare inside the fridge for hours at at time!
ENERGY STAR certified dishwashers, on average, are 10% more energy efficient and 20% more water efficient than standard models, costing less than $35 annually to run.
Energy efficient features
- equipped with a ‘smart’ feature which:
- minimizes water use
- minimizes demand on the water heater
- allows for less pre-rinsing
- results in a quieter operation
As an aside, I use the SmartAuto feature on my dishwasher and it works brilliantly. It cleans my dishes just as well as the Normal setting and is noticeably quieter, so needless to say, I am a big fan of the Smart setting since it is saving me money, energy, and water usage.
An additional way to save energy is to let your dishes air dry instead of using the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher. Often times the dishwasher is run at night and unloaded the next day, so there is plenty of time for your dishes to dry the old fashioned way or just grab a tea towel and dry them yourself, it’s really not too much of an extra effort to save energy this way. Quite honestly, my dishes are rarely dry when I put them away (I don’t typically use a tea towel to dry them thoroughly), I let them finish drying on their spot on the shelf.
This is a big purchase for your kitchen, no doubt about it. You definitely want to take your time and choose wisely as arguably the most important function of your kitchen (cooking food) is done with this appliance.
When choosing the right eco-friendly oven for your particular kitchen and cooking needs, there are a few different types to consider.
These can be gas or electric. Gas is about 3X more efficient than electric. Self-cleaning models are more energy efficient because they have better insulation than models that are not. However, if you use this feature too often (more than once a month) you will lose out on the energy efficient benefits of having more insulation.
Conventional ovens are pretty hard to find nowadays as these models tend to cook food unevenly (the top rack cooks at a different rate than the bottom rack) so most manufacturers have moved toward convection.
With convection, the heated air is continuously circulated around the food being cooked. You get more even heat distribution and, for many foods, temperatures and cooking time can be decreased. This results in a more energy efficient cooking method than conventional ovens. In fact, they use 1/3 less energy than conventional ovens and cook your food faster.
Almost all new ovens are convection, so choosing one to suit your needs and kitchen design should not be a problem. Big box stores like Home Depot have a ton of selection for you to peruse.
Fan Assisted Ovens
In fan-assisted ovens, the elements are at the top and the bottom of the oven as they are in a traditional oven, with the fan helping to distribute air around the interior of the oven. The result of this is that heat is more evenly distributed. Also, because small particles of food are sucked out, filtered, and recirculated, you’ll be able to cook sweet and savory foods at the same time without risking cross-contamination of flavors.
Fan assisted ovens heat up faster than traditional ovens, and use about 20% less energy, so you will see savings on your energy bill.
From an energy savings point of view, there really is no better option than a microwave oven for reheating food. They are pretty easy on the pocketbook as well, costing up to 80% less than a standard oven. Not surprisingly, they use about 1/3 the energy of a traditional oven. Since they don’t heat up the kitchen like an oven, microwaves may even save you money on your air conditioning bill throughout the summer.
However, you probably do not want to do all your cooking with a microwave, that’s understandable. Luckily, there are new combination cookers available now that combine convection heating with microwave technology, so they can heat, roast, crisp and brown in the same way as a large conventional oven.
You can use the two heat sources independently or together. This would allow you to even bake a cake if you so desired.
So, if you are looking to do more than just defrost or heat up your food, and you are not a master chef creating masterpieces at every meal, a combination microwave might be a good option in your kitchen.
Again, big box stores such as Home Depot have a huge selection of microwave ovens, so if they strike your fancy, finding one that you like should be pretty easy.
As with pretty much all energy efficient appliances, eco-friendly ovens and microwave ovens will most likely cost you more upfront but will more than make up for it over the course of its life in your kitchen.
Understanding what your needs are relative to the functionality of the oven will ensure that you have a happy eco-friendly oven experience every time you use it.
Remember: The smaller the oven, the more energy efficient it will be and a self-cleaning oven is more efficient because of better insulation.
Do you prefer to have your cooktop separate from your oven? Great, there are lots of options for you to consider. As with ovens, you will need to choose what size, fuel source (gas or electric), and what element type is most appropriate for your needs.
Preferred by people who like to cook because they have more control over the speed of cooking. A downside of gas cooking is it requires a ventilation fan to the outdoors because of the gas combustion products being introduced in the house.
Gas Elements: There are two types to choose from, sealed and unsealed. Unsealed burners are the traditional gas burners with an electric ignition.
A sealed burner is where the burner is fused to the cooktop. There is no difference in energy efficiency between the two but when it comes to convenience and ease of cleaning, sealed wins for sure.
You have many more choices of electric elements than gas ones, however, the most energy efficient option is induction.
Induction elements transfer electromagnetic energy directly to the pan where the heat is needed and offer greater control than conventional electric elements. As a result, they are very energy efficient, using 30% less energy than standard electric coil elements while introducing less heat into the kitchen than conventional gas or electric designs. Once the pan is removed from the element, there is very little residual heat lingering on the cooktop.
As good as they sound, there is a downside with induction elements, you can only use ferrous metal cookware with them. This includes cast iron and stainless steel. Aluminum or copper will NOT work with an induction element.
As induction elements are getting more and more popular, the style choices available are vast so you should have no problem picking one out that suits your needs and your kitchen aesthetic. They are widely available at big box stores like Home Depot, so go ahead and check them out!
Now that you have picked out your oven and/or cooktop, it’s time for ventilation! YAY! A great eco-friendly option for range hoods is stainless steel. Stainless steel is recyclable at the end of its life and is usually made partly from recycled material itself.
Range hoods tend to get overlooked in the designing process of a kitchen, but nowadays they can add a stylish statement. No longer just the utilitarian piece of your kitchen, range hoods can be a statement piece and add a little something extra to your kitchen.
To keep the guess work to a minimum, choose an ENERGY STAR rated range hood. This will ensure you are buying the most energy efficient range hood possible, without sacrificing performance. As a bonus, ENERGY STAR rated range hoods are quieter than others so if fan noise is an issue for you, it’s just another reason to check out an energy efficient range hood.
I hope this article proves useful as you work your way towards an eco-friendly kitchen. Taking the time to seriously consider your needs will ensure you make the best choice for an enjoyable, functional kitchen.
Did I miss anything? Would you like more detail about a particular item? Do you have any eco-friendly kitchen makeover advice? Let me know in the comments below!