Eco-kitchen overhaul

Everything in your kitchen could probably be greener

Jason Tyler shows off kitchen cabinets made from eco-friendly sustainable wood.

Jason Tyler shows off kitchen cabinets made from eco-friendly sustainable wood.

Photo By David Robert

A green kitchen costs about 20 to 30 percent more than other kitchens, and not all products are foolproof. Before laying your money down, research the upsides and downsides of green building products. Some good places to start: Consumer Reports‘ Greener, the U.S. Green Building Council at, and locally, the Sierra Green Building Association at

There’s a strong chance that everything you see in your kitchen—from the floor to the fridge to the countertops—has a more environmentally friendly alternative.

The refrigerator is likely the biggest energy hog in your kitchen. Making a greener choice for one is relatively easy: Look for the Energy Star sign. Energy Star models use 15 percent less energy than federal standards and are about 40 percent more efficient than models built before 2001. Consumer Reports found that efficiency tends to diminish over the refrigerator’s lifetime but that new models generally save enough energy to offset their cost.

Same goes for dishwashers, another energy glutton. Energy Star dishwashers are 41 percent more energy efficient than the minimum government standards. Air-drying the dishes saves even more energy.

Look up. That glow lighting up the room—is it coming from the long-lasting, low energy LED (light emitting diode) lighting? Extra energy savings are also found through compact fluorescent bulbs.

Now look down. There are a wide variety of floors you could be splattering spaghetti sauce on that emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—prime indoor air pollutants—and are easier on the environment than conventional flooring. There are hardwood floors made from recycled wood, as well as recycled ceramic tiles. Marmoleum is a brand of linoleum made from Earth-friendly materials. Cork floors, which come in about a dozen styles and colors, are a sustainable option since they’re made from the bark of a tree that then grows back. There’s also quick-growing bamboo, though it can change color under too much natural light.

In Reno, the recently opened Affordable Kitchen and Bath, 7485 Longley Lane, Suite C, sells a concrete floor that never needs to be washed with chemicals; just a wet-down and a buffing once a year. The design and remodeling store’s showroom is one of the few in Reno that offers green options, though they’re mixed in with less eco-aware products.

“We have a mix because to go totally green now, it’s expensive for us to buy, so it’ll be expensive for the customer, and the [green] demographic isn’t large enough yet to support it,” says Sandy Tyler, co-owner and designer with AKB. “But I think if you’re going to be a consumer or a business, you have to assume some responsibilities.”

AKB offers cabinetry that’s made out of sustainable bamboo or African mahogany and has a low VOC content. Also, look for cabinets certified sustainable by the reputable Forest Stewardship Council. Cabinet maker Neil Kelly in Portland, Ore., uses wheatboard—made from wheat straw, usually thrown away as a waste product—rather than particle board. They also use FSC-certified wood, and their glues, stain and finishes don’t pollute the air with chemicals.

Funky, gorgeous countertops can be the result of recycled glass. AKB offers at least one style of recycled glass countertops. Colorful, recycled glass is usually mixed with a cement, concrete or resin base. Other eco-options include bamboo, sustainable wood and even recycled paper countertops.

“I think [green] is where we all need to be focused,” says Cindy Bielser, a designer and co-owner of AKB. “It’s out there, let’s use it.”

And when you’re done replacing all that stuff, recycle it, or give it to someone who needs it.