Ask the Expert: What are 5 ways to make a kitchen more green?

| by Teena Hammond
Ask the Expert: What are 5 ways to make a kitchen more green?

Making a kitchen more energy efficient and more green is a top priority for many homeowners.

We wanted to find out a the best ways to make kitchens more energy efficient, so we asked our Approved Contributing Experts, also known as ACE's, to respond to our question on the top five ways to add green to a kitchen — and not just by changing the paint color on the walls.

Luis Imery, principal of The Imery Group:

1. Energy Star Appliances: Replace old and poor performing refrigerators, dishwashers, washers and dryers with Energy Star labeled products. Make sure that the old appliances are disposed of properly and are diverted from landfills. Typically your payback can be anywhere between 2-4 years.

2. Lighting: Replace all your bulbs with CFL or LED's. Ditch incandescent lighting, they are just a bad idea. For CFL's your payback is within a year, LED's a bit more since you most likely will have to replace the lighting fixture. Just start with screw-in compact fluorescent bulbs, and then move up whenever you do cosmetic improvements to your kitchen.

3. Watersense Fixtures: Replace your kitchen faucet with WaterSense labeled fixtures. They work well and use a fraction of the water as your non-labeled fixtures. You will save water and on your electric bill because you will use less hot water. Payback is anywhere between 2 – 4 years, depending on how "stylish" the faucet is.

4. Buy local food: Any city or town has a farmers market, so find out where they are and start buying what you can from them. You will first be helping the local economy, and secondly most of these products will typically be organically grown. Growing your own food serves this purpose as well, along with composting.

5. Buy Environmentally Friendly Cleaning Products: Nowadays big box retailers and grocery stores carry all kinds of eco-friendly products. Just check the label, and if you feel comfortable with their chemical makeup, buy them. Better yet, you can go online and find many "formulas" for making your own cleaning products. For example, a little of vinegar mixed with water makes a good product to clean your windows.

Ted Clifton, founder of Zero-Energy Plans LLC, and CVH Inc.:

Five ways to make a kitchen more green? This is an interesting question. Many people would assume that putting in some combination of "green certified" products would qualify. That depends! To arrive at the correct answer to this question, we need to remember what the function of a kitchen really is: to prepare, and possibly to consume meals.

Start by examining how you work within the space you have; what works, and what is wasted. Wasted motion is just as "not green" as wasted water, or other forms of energy. When it all comes down to the nitty gritty, wasted motion in your kitchen ultimately wastes just as much energy as wasted motion in an assembly plant somewhere, like where your new cabinets might be manufactured. Don't waste the motion and the environmental expense of having new cabinets installed, if you have not first designed your kitchen to function correctly. Chalk this up as way #1: A good kitchen design.Low-flow faucets

Second, look at the existing cabinets and fixtures; can they be rearranged, re-surfaced, and re-purposed? In a recent kitchen remodel, we reconfigured a pantry cabinet to hold a double oven unit. We have also used unwanted upper cabinets as can cupboards below one side of an island. Can your counter tops be re-used? How about as a workbench in the garage, if they do not fit in the re-designed kitchen space?

Now that we have identified what items will remain, and what needs to be purchased new, we can start making responsible choices. For example, if the main purpose of your kitchen sink faucet is to fill pots with water for cooking, do not select a low flow faucet; it will just frustrate you, and waste your time. If the main purpose of that sink is for hand washing, however, the low flow faucet could save you a lot of water and energy over time. This is one reason why two sinks in a kitchen are now very popular, one for cooking, the other for cleaning. The "salad sink" should be a deep, single bowl sink, with a standard flow faucet. This can be used for filling pots, and for other larger uses of water. The main sink will be used for multiple functions, including hand washing, pre-scraping before dishwashing, etc. The "cleanup sink" should have a low-flow faucet. Make sure your kitchen layout in item #1 above takes into account the different functions of the two sinks, so that the right one is in the right place. Your kitchen is not there to look at, if it is, you should not even have one!

Item #4 is to select the right appliances. There isn't much we can do about the energy required to cook, it takes a lot, so I'll leave that for another blog. We can save hundreds of dollars over the life of our appliances with careful selections. Start with the Energy Star label, but don't end there! Compare different models from different makers of similar sized and configured units. For example, a recent customer of ours selected a refrigerator that used $58 in electricity per year. We found another manufacturer's product that had exactly the same features, same style door handles, etc., that used only $50 per year, and it actually cost $4 less! Make sure when you make these comparisons that you use the KWh used, not the dollars, because Energy Star stickers from different years will use a different price per KWh!

The fifth way to make a kitchen more green is to USE IT! Every time you go out to eat, or stop off for "fast food", you are wasting energy! I am not against a good meal out once in a while, especially if you happen to already be downtown at supper time, but the more you use your own kitchen, the more money you will save. Unless you are just heating up frozen entrees, and other prepared foods, you will probably have a more healthy diet as well. Raw vegetables not only are more healthy for you, they don't need to be cooked, saving that energy alluded to at the beginning of item #4

Tom Smith, director of marketing for Anua


Anua's top 5 ways to make a kitchen more green:

  1. Don't use caustic drain openers for a clogged drain. Instead use boiling water or a drain snake to open clogs.
  2. Eliminate, or minimize the use of the garbage disposal to reduce the amount of fats, oils, grease and solids (FOGS) entering the wastewater stream.
  3. Wash dishes by hand and use a drying rack. If you must use a dishwasher, make sure it's filled to capacity every time you turn it on.
  4. Fix any leaks or drips and make sure the water is turned completely off.
  5. Install aerators in the kitchen sink faucet.

Lois Vitt Sale, chief sustainability officer at Wight & Co.


  1. Change your appliances to models that are EnergyStar labeled. Your dishwasher and refrigerators are prime candidates in your kitchen to be replaced with more efficient products.
  2. Add a flow restrictor to your kitchen faucet or replace your old faucet with one that is labeled by WaterSense. Many older faucets spit out 2.5 gallons of water per minute. How many times do you sit in front of your kitchen sink with running water? Think about how much water you can save by shaving off the amount of water that flows from the tap.
  3. Change your light bulbs to fluorescent or, even better, LED lamps. LED light bulbs have the benefit of being able to be dimmed.   LED light bulbs are more expensive than incandescent or fluorescent, but they last a lot longer.
  4. Redesign your garbage area to allow for waste segregation. I added a roll out wire unit into one of my lower cabinets to allow for two ten-gallon bins — one for garbage and one for recyclables. If I were designing a new kitchen, I'd also design a space for a composting unit. As it is, I use an outside bin and/or worm composting (more in the winter) to break down my organic waste.
  5. Install a water filter on your tap, or buy a pitcher with a built in filter if you don't think your tap water is the quality you want. I'd call this a plastic reduction plan!

When you think about greening your kitchen, don't limit your thinking to the bricks and mortar that make your space or the equipment you use. Think instead about the materials that come into the kitchen and the garbage that leaves your kitchen. What changes can you make to diminish the amount of garbage you produce?

Topics: Appliances, Going Green, Kitchen, Lighting

Companies: Anua

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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