Families who embrace a sustainable lifestyle often find that, while much of the nation isn’t totally on-board yet, it’s becoming much less of a hassle to go green. Opting for reusable shopping bags instead of relying on a store’s plastic ones can keep this harmful material out of our landfills. And by installing a new metal roof on your home, you can be secure in the knowledge that it contains 30% to 60% recycled metal (and it can be totally recycled at the end of its long life). Plus, you’ll save money on your energy bills. These changes range from completely affordable to quite expensive, but once you’ve gone green, you won’t even notice the difference.
But what about eco-friendly changes inside the home? Those can be more of an investment, to be sure, but it’s one that will pay off. Many families decide that the kitchen is a great place to start. After all, it’s called the heart of the home for good reason. It’s often the central gathering place, perfect for sharing a meal and spending quality time together. For those who need some sustainable inspiration, here are a few key areas to focus on in your soon-to-be green kitchen.
The good news is that natural materials are “in.” Recycled glass countertops can be a unique and eco-friendly option that add sparkle to your space. But even higher-end countertops can be environmentally responsible, too. Many quartz varieties contain recycled content that reduce energy consumption and waste by-products during production. And since quartz countertops can handle temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit, they can definitely stand the heat. You might also consider using sustainable woods like recycled butcher block counters or end-grain bamboo.
Countertops aren’t the only place where it makes sense to use bamboo. When you trade out your laminate flooring for bamboo, you’ll benefit from added durability and higher-quality aesthetics. Bamboo is a fantastic material in terms of sustainability because it can be grown quickly and harvested without lasting damage. In fact, only 16-20% of a bamboo crop is harvested each year, which leaves 80% or more of a forest untouched. But the good news is that no matter how often you touch (or trample on) your new kitchen floors, they’ll be even sturdier than conventional hardwoods.
If your kitchen cabinets have seen better days, you might think you need to gut them and start over. But in many cases, this is an unnecessary expense — and a non-sustainable one, at that. Instead, consider refacing your kitchen cabinets. Experts estimate that refacing costs two-thirds less than a total cabinet renovation and it’s definitely more eco-friendly because it allows you to re-utilize wood installations you already have. You’ll save lot of materials from ending up in landfills and prevent additional trees being cut down. If you want to avoid using new wood completely, consider metal, glass, or recycled woods for the new-to-you cabinets. This option is also faster than a complete remodel, which means you won’t have to wait as long to use your kitchen again.
Homes and homeowners are both getting smarter when it comes to their appliances. Smart refrigerators, for example, can be a welcome addition to your sustainable kitchen. Not only do these fridges regulate their own temperatures (and thereby reduce energy waste), but they can even help you reduce the amount of food you throw away. Many cutting-edge models will keep track of the food inside and even scan the barcodes to ensure it doesn’t spoil before you get a chance to use it. Plus, manufacturers are making headway in eliminating the insulating foams used inside conventional refrigerators; these foams contribute to global warming, so these brands have an incentive to design appliances that are even more eco-friendly.
Plus, there are new green appliances coming on the market all the time. According to Energy Star, a new solar water heater can reduce your home’s water heating costs by as much as 50%. In general, look for home appliances with the high efficiency label when you’re out shopping.
Don’t be afraid to get a little creative with your green kitchen remodel. Water-saving water taps, for instance, can help families reduce their water waste and use 40% less water than the average faucet. Induction hobs are an innovative option, too. Using electromagnetic energy, induction technology allows for easy temperature regulation while cooking on the stove. Indoor hydroponic gardens can be a great way to grow your own food in a small space; they’ll make your kitchen green in more ways than one. You can also create or buy an attractive home for your indoor compost bin to put your trash to good use.
Ultimately, designing a green kitchen won’t only benefit your family while you’re living in your home. It can be to your advantage if you decide to move, too. A recent study from the University of Texas and the U.S. Green Building Council found that new Texas homes that conformed to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards — the stamp of approval given to eco-friendly properties — could add $25,000 to their resale value. Homes built between 2008 and 2016 saw an 8% increase in value when built to LEED standards, and homes constructed to meet more general green standards experienced a 6% increase in market value.
While that study looked only at houses in Texas, the nation’s homebuyers are starting to really embrace sustainability. Instead of seeing a green home as an unnecessary expense, more Americans see it as a perk — one that they’ll pay thousands more to obtain. So whether you plan on remaining in your home for the long haul or may consider moving elsewhere in the future, a sustainable renovation can allow families to live in a way they feel good about.