Green tips for redesigning your cooking space
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do: For this one-time offer, I will redesign your kitchen in an eco-friendly manner at no charge.
That statement alone probably did enough to blacklist me from any future correspondence with those people actually professionally trained and educated about green building. Am I LEED-certified? No. Have I ever remodeled a kitchen? Negative. Shoot, I don’t even own a house. I rent a room, illegally, in a duplex. I’m risking my reputation just for you!
I have, however, learned about green building from Sacramento’s local experts as SN&R attempts to renovate a building on Del Paso Boulevard. So let’s pretend you have a kitchen. You also have mad money lying around, and a soul and a conscience. Good, let’s begin.
Countertops are the best part. There is a multiplicity of reasonably priced, eco-fabulous options. Alkemi is comprised of recycled aluminum cans, which would look sweet in a modern, industrial-style room. PaperStone is a 100 percent post-consumer paper product certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. PaperStone’s cool, but its colors are, shall we say, a wee bit bland. But some people are into that (no judgment), in which case, I also recommend Squak Mountain’s countertops, which mix recycled paper, glass, cement and coal fly-ash into a product reminiscent of limestone.
For your kitchen, though, I envision something festive. Lots of bright reds, yellows with a splatter of chartreuse. How about IceStone, a vibrantly colored mix of concrete and recycled glass. EnviroGlas, made of 100 percent recycled glass and porcelain, is another neat-looking terrazzo. California-based Vetrazzo produces a beautiful countertop composed of concrete and 100 percent recycled glass, which comes from traffic lights, windshields and even Skyy Vodka bottles. (See? It’s OK for me to get drunk off vodka tonics at the club every weekend. I’m doing my part to save the world, thank you very much.)
Where can you find eco-friendly countertops? (What’d you think, I was actually going shopping for you? No way.) Check out Green Sacramento, a building supply store located in the Green Living Center at 1931 H Street in Midtown, or Casa Verde Designs not too far away in downtown Davis.
We’ll put a backsplash of tile purchased from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which sells new or slightly used construction and building materials at 30 to 50 percent off the retail price. Proceeds benefit this nonprofit organization, which builds houses for low-income families. Patronizing the ReStore automatically ensures your entrance into Heaven. You can’t beat that!
Next up: flooring. I’ve decided to find an alternative to vinyl flooring, which is toxic at every stage of its life cycle (extraction, manufacture, insulation and use). Alternatives include linoleum (made from wood flour, tree resins and linseed oil) and Marmoleum (made from natural flax, wood flour and rosins), both biodegradable products that can be installed with solvent-free adhesives. Personally, I like Armstrong’s ceramic tile, a durable product made in Los Angeles, which is less than 400 miles from here, making it somewhat local. If your kitchen has a concrete floor, we’ll simply cover the ground with a nontoxic stain.
Time to install some cabinets. I’m picturing hodgepodge. Stay with me here. The cabinets above the sink will be made of bamboo, a rapidly renewable resource. How can a grass be used for cabinetry? Well, manufacturers create a strong and durable plywood-type product by cross-layering bamboo stocks and pressing them together into boards. Adjacent to an Energy Star-rated microwave will be cabinets made of Kirei board, an engineered wood product made from the fast-growing sorghum plant. Wheatboard is another popular eco-friendly material, which I’ll find a way to incorporate. Don’t you worry!
We’ll paint your kitchen walls with low- or no-VOC paint. Preferably in some shade of green.
Now, let’s energize this bad boy! Bring in natural light with skylights or solar tubes. For nighttime, brighten the room with fluorescent light bulbs. Solar water heaters may be a good option, depending on your home’s hot water needs. Definitely install a ceiling fan.
Before I hand over the keys, you’ll need three bins: one large recycling bin, an itty-bitty trash can lined with biodegradable plastic bags and a compost bin for food scraps. And don’t forget nontoxic cleaning products. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that between 3 and 25 gallons of toxic materials exist in the average American household. Most of these hazardous materials are found in cleaning supplies.
Finally, invite me over for a home-cooked vegetarian meal in your new eco-friendly kitchen that I kindly designed for you at no charge (I’m fond of cheese tortellini and chocolate cake). I mean, come on, it’s the least you can do.