From using reclaimed and recycled materials to the latest green tech, explore ways to improve your kitchen’s eco-credentials.
Image: Sustainable Kitchens
While design and functionality may be your first considerations for your new kitchen, there's a growing demand in homeowners for spaces that are environmentally sound, too.
From the construction methods and materials used in the build to the long term sustainability implications and energy expended by appliances, there are plenty of areas to consider improving your kitchen's scope to be more ecologically friendly.
Reclaim and re-use
Image: Kitchen cabinets made from salvaged pine boards by Mark Lewis Interior Design.
Using reclaimed materials is great for the environment - not only does it avoid said materials ending up in landfill, it also means less resources are used, both natural resources and energy, in creating your new kitchen.
While the imagined picture of a reclaimed kitchen may be charmingly rustic in your mind, this doesn't have to be the case. Companies like the Used Kitchen Exchange and The Used Kitchen Company buy high quality, no-longer-wanted cabinetry and worktops from owners replacing their kitchens and re-sell them on at discounted rates, meaning you can get a higher spec kitchen for your money.
Image: Dekton's Trillium range of surfaces are made from as much as 80% recycled materials
We know that recycling materials is key for minimising the amount sent to landfill, but did you also know that virgin materials use much more energy to manufacture than recycled ones?
Companies across the interiors spectrum will have dedicated ranges for the eco-conscious who are happy to put a premium on their home's green credentials, from cabinetry and flooring to lighting and tiles - and some entire brands are dedicated to recyclable materials.
If you're looking for a new Quartz worktop, look for ranges that contain recycled materials - far more eco-friendly than newly quarried stone - while stainless steel used for sinks is often made using recycled metal.
Image: Cork is an organic, renewable product which has many desirable qualities, including acting as a natural sound- and thermal-insulator. Brands such as Granorte use waste from other industries to make high-spec flooring.
If opting for timber for flooring or cabinetry, look for assurance that wood is FSC-certified and made with a non-chemical adhesive. Melamine chipboard and MDF can be eco, if using recycled materials, while Ecoboard is even better as it uses agricultural byproducts. Bamboo is another great sustainable product, as it is so fast-growing.
For a different look, resin can be used to replicate concrete flooring, without the environment taxing processes and huge quantities of water and chemicals needed to produce cement.
Sourcing your kitchen locally, from a manufacturer that uses local suppliers, will also help to reduce your kitchen's carbon footprint.
Healthy home choices
Image: Earthborn's Claypaint is virtually VOC free and contains no arcylic or oil
Another area where our homes can have a detrimental effect on the environment is in the release of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. When released, VOCs react with nitrogen oxides in the air to create fine particle pollution, however, they're also a risk to your health, as well as your families, when using VOC-emitting materials in your home.
VOCs can be present in building materials, flooring, composite wood products, and adhesives, as well as in some paints. These VOCs are released slowly over time, reducing the quality of your indoor air. Couple this with your home's new insulation and airtight doors and windows, and you're only exacerbating the effects.
Choosing materials with low or no VOC content is key for healthy homes moving forward, so ensure that this is part of your brief. Also think about how your home will be ventilated to reduce the risks where products that emit VOCs have to be used.
Read more: Buyer's guide: eco-friendly paint
Image: Innovations in cooling technology such as Fisher & Paykel's ActiveSmart™ can help to reduce the amount of energy used, but also prolong the shelf life of fresh produce, creating less food waste. Photo: Shannan McGrath
Many modern advances in ktichen appliances are aimed not only at streamlining tasks, but making them more environmentally friendly too. A boiling water tap, for example, not only provides hot water on demand, but also aims to tackle the £68 million a year the UK wastes in electricity boiling kettles according to the Energy Trust.
Cooking and cooling appliances are reducing the power consumption needed to run them, while innovations in cleaning appliances also seek to use less water.
Every appliance will have an energy rating label to help you work out the cost of running it, with an estimated amount that it will consume – e.g. 150 kWh/ annum. Multiply this rate by how much you pay per kWh, which you’ll find on your electricity bill.
The label will also compare water use, capacity and noise, depending on its category. Each has a rating from A+++ to D, although most new appliances are in the higher bracket. Typically, choosing an A+++ fridge-freezer over an A+ unit will save about £200 in energy over the product’s lifetime.
Bear in mind two differently sized appliances with the same energy rating may use varying amounts of electricity. For example, an A-rated 180-litre fridge-freezer could cost £39 a year to run; a larger 525-litre fridge freezer with a better A+ rating could cost £52 a year.