As the busiest room in the home, it’s no surprise that the kitchen is also among the most frequently remodeled. It’s more than just a place to prepare food. It’s a favorite gathering place for many families, and often considered the heart of the home.

However, in many ways the average kitchen is quite environmentally unfriendl y. Stoves and refrigerators are energy hogs, and the sink and dishwasher can waste gallons of water each day. If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, consider implementing some green design which will not only increase the value of your home, but also help reduce your energy and water costs, and the planet!

Here are the main things you can do to green your kitchen:

• Cabinets – You don’t necessarily have to replace the cabinets to give your kitchen a new look. Fresh paint or stain and new knobs can give them a whole new look with less waste and cost. If your cabinets must be replaced, opt for cabinets made from sustainable materials that are low in volatile organic compounds that produce harmful fumes.

• Countertops – This is another area where it’s best to work with what you already have if possible. Inspect your countertops carefully and see if they can be salvaged by refinishing, regrouting or regluing. If not, consider replacing them with one of the many recycled and environmentally friendly countertop materials that are on the market. There are plenty of beautiful and functional options to choose from that are made from materials such as recycled glass, reclaimed wood and reclaimed fly ash.

• Flooring – There are many eco-friendly flooring options available. Among the most popular for the kitchen are linoleum, cork and reclaimed or sustainable wood. These materials are easy on the feet since they are reasonably soft and attract warmth.

• Plumbing – If you’re not replacing your plumbing, check carefully for leaks and repair them. Consider insulating hot water pipes to conserve energy. A low-flow faucet will result in less wasted water.

• Appliances – Energy efficient appliances are an important part of any green kitchen remodel. When shopping for a new range, refrigerator or dishwasher, check its Energy Star rating to see how efficient it is. Not only will a more efficient model save you money on your electric bill, it may also qualify you for a rebate on your state taxes or from your utility company. Look for a dishwasher with quick wash and air dry cycles. In general, refrigerators with the freezer on top or bottom are more energy efficient than side-by-side models.

• Lighting – Good lighting is important in the kitchen. Fixtures that use fluorescent or compact fluorescent bulbs are fine for overhead lighting, but you’ll need something more powerful for task areas. Consider halogen or LED lamps to get bright yet efficient lighting.

As you browse products and materials for your kitchen, you’ll find that there is no shortage of green alternatives to choose from. By using green design practices in your kitchen remodeling project, you’ll help protect the environment while saving money in the long run.

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