Friday, July 22, 2011

Sprucing up your kitchen on a budget

Ask Ida

Dear Ida B. Green,

We're renovating our kitchen but want to be as environmentally conscious as possible on a very slim budget.

Signed, Penny Pincher

Dear Penny,

You've touched on three topics near and dear to my heart. I'm an obsessive renovator and could go on and on (and on) about easy, inexpensive and free ways to make a kitchen renovation greener. Instead, I'll take a deep breath and assume you already know about buying the highest rated Energy Star appliances, reusing as much of your old materials as possible, cutting back on toxic VOCs, yada yada yada.

So, let's focus on countertops.

Conventional synthetic countertops, from Formica to the fancy composites, are made from petroleum, which pollutes during extraction, manufacture and generally uses toxic adhesives and binders (formaldehyde has just been listed as a carcinogen). Granite and quartz are still considered the gold standard in upscale kitchens, but quarrying these pretties leaves permanent scars on their local landscapes and they're energy hogs to transport from distant sources to their very short-term roost in your kitchen (in geological time).

Green countertops are made from recycled, renewable and non-toxic materials. Some eco-alternatives to consider:

- Terrazzo (made regionally).

- Recycled-content tiles.

- Wooden countertops from salvaged beams or from wood harvested sustainably, or repurposed countertops from our local building thrift store, Craig's list, etc.

Be creative and make an environmental, economical, one-of-a-kind kitchen!

Keep it Green,


—Elizabeth Jeffrey

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