Reduce the carbon footprint of your kitchen

Eco renovation for kitchens

Newsflash: today we present an important breakthrough from renovation experts predicting how kitchens feel about going green.

“Erk, terrible colour,” claimed Granite Benchtop.

“I much prefer deep red,” chimed in Timber Cabinet, failing to realise that she wasn’t Forest Stewardship Council-certified and perhaps out of touch with what green really means.

Ecospecifier founder David Baggs says the hardest working room in the house can have a massive environmental impact, generating 23 per cent of domestic greenhouse gasses through cooking and refrigeration. The kitchen is also responsible for creating around 13 per cent of the average household’s water use.

So the green kitchen rules are:

  1. Don’t replace the kitchen until you have to

“The average Australian kitchen has a lifespan of seven to 10 years, which isn’t very long,” Baggs says. Because most kitchen cabinets are glued and created from laminates and melamines, they are almost impossible to recycle and re-use. It’s best to hold on to the kitchen you have and make decorative changes with paint, splashbacks or a new benchtop rather than rip it out and start afresh. If you do want to start from new, Baggs suggests building a solid timber kitchen, which can be re-assembled or re-painted at the end of its life.

  1. Make it water and energy efficient

There are simple spray attachments you can attach to your kitchen tap to reduce water usage. Connecting to natural gas for cooking will immediately reduce your greenhouse gas impact by one-third, compared to electricity. But new technologies like induction cooking and microwaves are even more energy efficient. Work out what you want, how you cook and which appliances will be most efficient for your kitchen.

  1. Go VOC-free

A VOC may sound like a deadly alien, but the kitchen is full of them. It stands for Volatile Organic Compounds which are associated with paints, glues and the sturdy finishes required in the kitchen. Haymes Paint technical and development manager Elizabeth Salter says there are now VOC-free paints that can be used in kitchens without compromising paint quality or durability.  “Some VOC’s can trigger asthma attacks or allergic reactions in susceptible individuals and some VOC’s contribute to greenhouse gas formation and climate change,” she says.

The greenest thing any kitchen-lover can do to make their favourite room in the house more sustainable is this: waste less.

“I have been meaning to make my waist narrower,” Granite Bench Top says.

“Vanity! It’s a curse” snorted Timber Cabinet, proving once and for all that she is in touch with her roots as a sustainable material. “Separate rubbish for recycling, start a worm farm or compost heap for food scraps and use your kitchen more wisely.” Now that’s environmentally sound.


This article was first published in House & Garden magazine as The Green House column.