If your kitchen is full of inefficient appliances, worn-out surfaces, and outdated design ideas, a remodeling project can address all your problems at one time. In addition to budgetary and design considerations, you are probably giving thought to the resource-saving potential of eco-friendly solutions. Green kitchen remodeling don't have to cost much more than your other options, and it is unlikely you'll have to compromise on the look you want by selecting environmentally-conscious materials.
The suggestions below provide you with some direction on the biggest remodeling choices you'll make. If eco-friendliness is a top priority, keep in mind the greenest option: making your current kitchen work instead of replacing it. Cleaning, painting, refinishing, and repairing--instead of replacing--result in far less waste and expense. You may be surprised how a well-planned effort can renew the face of an outdated kitchen using very few resources--saving the environment and saving you money. But if you'll be replacing some or all of your kitchen, follow this advice to reduce your impact.
Cabinets are a dominant feature in most kitchens and present a big opportunity for green remodeling. As mentioned above, consider refinishing or painting your existing cabinets (you can also replace their hardware) for a dramatic change. There are also companies that will coat your existing cabinets with eco-friendly acrylics for a fraction of the cost of new cabinets; these coatings can achieve effects a do-it-yourselfer typically cannot.
For new cabinets, go with bamboo or hardwood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC certifies woods that are produced using sustainable practices. Choose wood bonded with formaldehyde-free glue and finished with a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) varnish. Also look for wheat board or straw board cabinet boxes, which are just as strong as typical particleboard but are more eco-friendly.
You are not wanting for options for green countertops. You'll be able to find materials manufactured responsibly, composed of recycled/sustainable materials, and with low VOC emissions. And you won't be sacrificing durability. There are a plethora of finishes, colors, and textures on the market, and you'll find them to be made of some interesting materials: recycled glass mixed into concrete, recycled paper and yoghurt pots, ash, cement, bamboo, and reclaimed wood to name a few.
There are a lot of eco-friendly flooring options that will work in a kitchen. One is linoleum. Linoleum is different than vinyl; linoleum is made from linseed oil and other organic products, while vinyl is manufactured from petrochemicals. Linoleum is biodegradable and more durable than vinyl, though it costs about twice as much. Also consider cork. Cork is harvested from the bark of cork oak trees; harvesting does not kill the tree and the bark can be gathered again in 10 years. Cork provides a slightly cushioned surface than can be recycled. Bamboo is another wood product to consider, as it is rapidly renewable. Reclaimed hardwood makes a bold statement and requires no new trees to be cut down.
Energy Star appliances use 10-50% less energy than their standard counterparts; look for the Energy Star mark when shopping. Refrigerators and dishwashers of today are far more efficient than those produced a decade ago. You'll recoup any additional cost associated with energy-efficient appliances by taking advantage of their superior features. Also think about installing a water-filtration system. Such systems have much greater capacity than faucet filters and eliminate plastic bottle waste just as easily. In your lighting fixtures, use fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs wherever you can.
Your kitchen face-lift or remodel will almost certainly involve a fresh coat of paint, so don't forget to find a green solution here as well. Shop for low- or no-VOC paints, sold by most of the major manufacturers--and stick with latex-based paint. You'll enjoy a boost in your indoor air quality. When it's time to begin removing the old kitchen, be sure to recycle what you can. Additionally, some items you are getting rid of may be able to be repurposed.