Tips for a More Eco-Friendly, Healthier Kitchen

Written by Michele Dawson
Updated September 11, 2015
wood cabinets in a green kitchen
Wood cabinetry is a great idea for a green kitchen because they are recyclable, biodegradable and use less energy than metal and plastic counterparts. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

Read how to create a more eco-friendly, green kitchen that has healthier air by learning about cabinets, countertops, materials, paints and more.

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If you're getting ready to remodel with an eco-friendly, green kitchen in mind, one of the best places to start is with environmentally friendly cabinets.

Wood is Good

Wood cabinetry is the foundation for eco-friendly interior design. Wood is recyclable, biodegradable and uses less energy than its metal and plastic counterparts. And wood is a naturally renewable resource: when a tree is cut, another is grown in its place.

Check for Labels

If you want to ensure that your cabinets’ manufacturer is following eco-friendly practices, look for the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forest Initiative labels on your products, the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) recommends.

Chemical Sensitivities

If you’re sensitive to chemicals, there are precautions you can take when selecting cabinets. The main issue is formaldehyde, a colorless, strong-smelling gas that can spur coughing, nosebleeds, scratchy eyes and sore throats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Children, the elderly and those with breathing conditions like asthma or bronchitis are more susceptible to formaldehyde sensitivities. Pressed wood and particle board, used in making cabinets, emit formaldehyde.

Things to Consider

You can focus on these areas to keep cabinets and your new green kitchen as friendly as possible to those with sensitivities, say the CDC and KCMA.

Cabinet certification. Look for ones that passed KCMA’s Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP). Products are rated on 22 criteria in five areas, including air quality, and must meet a specific threshold to qualify. ESP-certified cabinets can be found through cabinetry dealers, kitchen showrooms and large retailers.

Cabinets that are laminated. They have a low number of formaldehyde emissions.

Cool air. Control mold by using your air conditioner or dehumidifier to make your house as cool as possible.

Fresh air. Keep it circulating. Open your windows when possible. Turn on those ceiling fans.

Low formaldehyde levels in products. Some also use nontoxic binders, finishes and glues.

The California Air Resources Board’s CARB label. This means the cabinets were made with ultralow emitting formaldehyde or no formaldehyde. As of 2013, all pressed wood sold in the United States was required to comply with CARB guidelines.

RELATED: Use eco-friendly materials for Northeast remodels.

More Green Kitchen Ideas

The National Kitchen & Bath Association offers additional tips for rounding out a kitchen remodel for those sensitive to chemicals. Some products to consider are:

Building materials that don't need toxic agents to be kept clean.

Countertops that don't include glues or resin containing high volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are classified as suspected carcinogens.

Kitchen exhaust fans and ventilation that are adequate and provide enough circulation. Consider upgrading the fans.

Natural fibers for rugs and window treatments, such as cotton, jute or wool.Paint with no VOCs or low-VOC paint. VOCs are released into the air as paint dries and can cause headache and dizziness.

Used/vintage furniture, which have likely already released their toxic gasses. Plus using these pieces recycles things that might have ended up in a landfill. Older furniture can also add an eclectic look to a kitchen or any room you're remodeling.

RELATED: Avoid toxic building products in your home.

To get more information about eco-friendly kitchen remodeling, you can read Angie’s List Guide to Green Living.

After that, you can contact a kitchen remodeler who will help you achieve your vision of a beautiful, environmentally friendly kitchen.

RELATED: Is your contractor eco-friendly or eco-fake?

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