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Best of the Best Kitchen Products from GreenSpec

The Evora cork flooring in this kitchen is renewable, comfortable, and surprisingly durable.

Kitchen renovation on your list? We pick some standout green products that are worth a look.

If you're trying to green a kitchen, you're in luck. Kitchens use a lot of energy and water, and as an indoor environment, they are a place we like to keep clean, bright, and healthy--so there are a lot of needs to meet.

Fortunately, there are also a lot of opportunities to use green products effectively. Some are great workhorses, some are remarkable but fall into the category of "cost is no concern," and some are just plain interesting.

Green from the ground up

Let's start with the flooring. There are a lot of great flooring options, from FSC-certified wood to tile. Being from Vermont I like wood, but cork is worth looking at as well. It's comfortable to stand on for long periods of time, absorbs sound well, provides some insulation, and is more durable than you might think.

If you drop a plate on a cork floor, the cork absorbs the shock and chances are the plate might not break like it would with tile or wood, and most cork flooring comes prefinished with a UV-cured, low- or zero-VOC finish. But you'll have to clean up spills quickly to keep the floor from staining, nonetheless, and most people add a layer of wax or polyurethane after installation for added protection.

Environmentally, cork is renewable, harvested by hand from the bark of the cork oak tree every nine or so years, and the trees live between 150 and 200 years under strict forest management practices. GreenSpec lists a number of cork flooring options. One we particularly like is from the Portuguese company Evora, which offers easy-to-install tiles that click into place like laminated flooring.

Quest for green cabinets

For cabinetry, we list Crystal Cabinet Works' GreenQuest line, which uses FSC-certified wood, as well as no-added-urea-formaldehyde (NAUF) and no-added-formaldehyde (NAF) particleboard and plywood, dovetailed drawers, and they come with more than 80 door options.

Top these off with EQcountertops, using zero-VOC adhesives and certified by Greenguard Children & Schools for low emissions. While you're at it, you might want to put a Knape & Vogt recycling center in those cabinets.

Super-saving appliances

Bosch dishwashers are quiet, energy, efficient, and use up to 70% less water than the industry average.

These are probably out of the price range for a lot of folks, but they're really cool and are worth a look. Bosch makes dishwashers that use only 180 kWh per year, 1.57 gallons per cycle, and achieve an energy factor of 1.23, the best in the U.S. And with three layers of cotton fiber insulation surrounding a stainless steel tub, they are quiet at only 40 dB (a whisper is around 30 dB).

Another unique energy-saving appliance is made by Sun Frost, which produces refrigerators and freezers over 50% more efficient than Energy Star standards. They're available in 12- and 24-volt DC, and 110- and 220-volt AC models and are so efficient they can often be found in homes powered solely by solar or wind and not connected to the utility grid. They can be a little more boxy and space-consuming than conventional fridges, but the performance is remarkable.

How to do low-flow in a kitchen

Saving water in a kitchen is a little different than the rest of the home. Normally we recommend the use of low-flow aerators in baths and elsewhere, but these aren't the best choice when you have to fill a five-gallon stock pot.

A hands-free foot pedal control that turns the water on and off is a better option. You can control the water flow while doing dishes and since you don't need your hands, it keeps them and the faucet from being cross-contaminated during food prep. We use one here in our office kitchen and list several in GreenSpec, including those from T&S Brass, which also makes durable water-saving pre-rinse spray valves for commercial kitchens.


Avoid waste from waiting for hot water

Waiting for hot water at the tap while doing dishes or washing hands is another major waste of water, but a Metlund D'mand system can solve that problem. The D'mand system uses an electronically controlled valve and pumping system to pump cold water back to the water heater and deliver hot water in its place. Like the foot pedal, the D'mand system can be used throughout the home, but it is particularly useful in the kitchen. So, there you have it, a few low-emitting, resource-efficient kitchen products from among the 2,000+ products listed in our GreenSpec guide. Over the upcoming weeks I'll keep looking into cutting-edge products, as well as highlighting product areas found in GreenSpec. Let me know if you want me to cover any specific residential or commercial sectors. We have plenty of new and established products to choose from!

Brent Ehrlich is the products editor at BuildingGreen, Inc.

Posted by Brent Ehrlich on March 31, 2011


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