What environmentally friendly building materials can be used in a kitchen?
There are quite a few different factors that go into defining what is “eco-friendly”, especially when we’re talking about building materials. How safe are the materials we use – to live with, breathe in and cook with in our kitchens? And what else should we consider about the effects we have on our environment?
Industry requirements and standards give us some of the answers, while others come down to your preferred designs and plans, and the level of your own personal dedication to making non-harmful choices for the planet.
What Makes a Kitchen Building Material Eco-Friendly?
The kinds of questions and issues that come under the banner of ‘eco-friendly’, for kitchen building materials include:
- Toxicity of the material, or treatment of it
- Whether caustic cleaning solutions are required
- Renewability of the resource
- Ethical sourcing & manufacturing (clean, non-polluting manufacture or mining/quarrying techniques used)
- Water wastage and contamination issues (in mining, manufacturing and treatment processes)
- Water & power saving measures (in tap fittings & filters, lighting and appliances)
- Processes with very high energy inputs (e.g. steel manufacture)
- Transport & Carbon Footprint (GHGs, fuel use – consider weight & distance for transport of materials,)
- Durability including enduring styles (lasting a long time before needing replacement)
- Disposal (non-toxic decomposition, recycling, waste disposal considerations when demolished)
Other Considerations for an Environmentally Friendly Kitchen
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) : These are chemical fumes emitted from some materials. Look for low or no VOCs in cabinet finishes, sealants and paints. Polyurethane sealant has high VOCs.
Low Formaldehyde Emission (LFE) level: Engineered wood products, such as MDF and Particleboard use Formaldehyde as an additive in the adhesive resin. Formaldehyde-based resin is also used in carpets, curtains and other household items. It is a toxic substance that can affect the quality of air in the kitchen and household. Long term exposure to high quantities can be highly carcinogenic.
These days, all Australian-made MDF and Particleboards are required to comply with an E1 classification standard, which means that the material must have a certified Low Formaldehyde Emission (LFE) level under the Australian Standard for reconstituted wood panels. Avoid cheap imported materials without LFE certification. We only use plantation-based timber, so it’s eco-friendly and formaldehyde free.
Eco-friendly Materials to Use in the Kitchen
Here are some helpful suggestions of environmentally friendly materials:
- Recycled materials like glass, timber, steel, paper, old-growth lumber, plastic laminates (with non-toxic treatments and glue)
- Salvaged wood
- Woods from sustainably managed forests or plantations
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood. (Wood-fibre certified as sustainably sourced)
- Porcelain and ceramic tiles (often are themselves made with recycled materials)
- Timber veneer (as it uses a relatively small amount of timber)
- Many engineered stone countertops, which are sealed without using toxic chemicals and sustainably manufactured
- Renewable materials
Some of the renewable forest and plantation materials include:
- Plantation hoop pine plywood
- FSC-certified wood
- Lyptus (A fast-growing, engineered Eucalyptus hybrid)
More Quick Eco-Friendly Options for Your Kitchen Design
- Accommodate recycling and other waste systems in your kitchen design
- Use energy-saving appliances & LED lighting
We’d be happy to help you design and create an eco-friendly and durable kitchen to enjoy for a very long time! Come and talk to us at EuroLife. Phone: (02) 9719 8977.
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