We all need to take responsibility for our environmental impact and carbon footprint and we know that things such as solar panels, reusable plastic bags and taking public transport can help to reduce our personal footprints, but what about when it comes to our redesigning our homes? Design student Natalie Wilson takes a closer look at how kitchen design choices can help the environment…
Kitchen designs have come a long way in recent years and there is now a huge focus on combating environmental concerns with the use of sustainable materials, energy-saving appliances, and non-plastic options and accessories. Of all the rooms in our homes, kitchens use up a lot of energy and require a lot of materials to create, which are just a couple of the factors leading to this shift in focus.
When it comes to your kitchen design, it is important that you remain mindful of the effects that it might have on the environment. There are a number of different ways in which you can combine both style and sustainability in your kitchen, whilst supporting the environment at the same time…
Worktops and Cabinets
For many years, kitchen worktops and cabinets have mostly been produced using plywood and chipboard. These materials are actually quite damaging to the environment due to the components which make it. Although it is cheap to buy and is mostly made using recycled timber and timber waste, most chipboard contains formaldehyde which is a highly potent chemical and, when combined with other chemicals, formaldehyde creates a tough resin which is then used to create chipboard. When it is disposed of, this resin can have damaging effects on the environment.
More and more kitchen designers are realising this and currently, an on-trend option is to use birch plywood for cabinet units. This is made using thin sheets of birch timber, which is then sandwiched together to create strength, but with very minimal waste. Ecoboard is also a good choice as it is made with compressed agricultural products, such as straw and hay. Another popular design trend is to use reclaimed timber, as this offers a chic and rustic look, however this can cost anything up to 30% more than standard timber units. When it comes to the work surfaces themselves then tile or natural stone is a good option due to its longevity – read our Tiled Kitchen Worktops: Pros & Cons feature to learn more.
Create a Timeless Design
One part of sustainability is longevity, so the more you have to re-do or replace, then the less sustainable your kitchen will be. If you have to resource or manufacture replacements, then you may need to use more toxins in order to finish, paint or seal it. You should also consider the fact that you might be using more fuel for transportation and shipping any items.
Building and designing a sustainable kitchen requires a long-term approach. You should design a kitchen which is timeless and is as comfortable, functional and appealing now as it will be in perhaps even 20 years. Create a kitchen design which doesn’t need any significant work or major replacements and which will be accessible and usable for your family in the years to come.
Of course, you want your kitchen to be stylish as well as sustainable. There are a number of ways in which you can add stylistic, yet eco-friendly touches to your kitchen. Tiles are a great way to add colour, texture and pattern into your kitchen and, not only do tiles look good, but they are made from natural materials, don’t require harsh cleaning products or sealants and can save you money as they are long-lasting and durable.
Boiling water taps are a modern yet sustainable feature to add to your kitchen. With no need to switch on a kettle or boil a pan of water – both of which use up energy – boiling taps are used as a permanent feature in your kitchen and are much more energy-efficient, streamline the use of your kitchen worktops and are a fun, fancy feature to have.
When it comes to kitchen furniture and accessories, you should look to incorporate a whole mixture of sustainability, comfort, modernness and longevity. Contemporary furniture is a great way to add a modern touch to your kitchen, whilst retro, reclaimed and upcycled furniture looks beautiful and is a way to ensure your furniture choices are sustainable.
Energy efficiency is something which has become a huge focus and priority within our culture, which is a positive thing. Technology advancements have enabled a lot of appliances to become more energy-efficient and developments in lighting have had a huge impact on the choices available, especially for kitchens.
LED fixtures are popular light choices and come with a longer lifespan and lower energy consumption than traditional bulbs and can be used efficiently within the kitchen, from fridge lighting to downlights. You can add dimmer switches which allow you to adjust the wattage, which means that you can decide when your kitchen should be brighter, saving energy in the process.
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