Welcome to your all-in-one resource for creating a sustainable kitchen, shop ethical with this 2019 Guide!
Be sure to download the Sustainable Kitchen Shopping Guide! It’s a project planner to get the most from the resources in this post.
Designing Your Sustainable Kitchen
I love my kitchen, but after a decade of heavy use, its time for an updo!
Since I was already doing some research to help Bob and I make better decisions, I thought I’d share what I learned with this nifty little sustainable kitchen planning and shopping guide.
Let’s begin with basic design elements that can enhance the sustainability of the kitchen for years to come.
Unless you are building a new home, the size of your kitchen may be predetermined. When renovating with the goal of sustainability, you may be able to expand your kitchen space by knocking down walls and combining rooms. Many of the details we’ll explore in the coming sections of this post will help you define your space needs.
So, print your Sustainable Kitchen Shopping Guide by clicking this link. Then, read on to get the information you need to shop ethically.
Combine well-tested plans with high-quality products to create a kitchen that will be as utilitarian and welcoming ten years from now as it is today.
Timeless spaces are beautiful and useful regardless of design trends.
Here’s a checklist of design elements that can bring a sense of timelessness to your new kitchen:
- Natural wood, exposed brick, and stone.
- Neutral paint colors.
- Antique elements and the use of architectural salvage.
- Historical design features from your region like barn wood for our area.
- Rustic and industrial fixtures.
- Clean and uncluttered spaces.
- Breakfast nooks.
- Stained glass.
- Lots of natural lighting.
First theme, then function
Once you have the basic design theme established for your kitchen, it’s time to think about function. Here are a few things to keep top of mind while you plan your sustainable kitchen with a sense of timelessness:
- Organized spaces that are specific to their use.
- Make composting, recycling, and trash collection effortless.
- A dedicated space for cookbooks, iPads, and other cooking references.
- Think about form, function, and comfort in with every choice.
Timelessness is an essential element of creating a sustainable kitchen because frequent renovations are costly and wasteful.
Make decisions with a forever mindset.
Natural Lighting and Efficient Lightbulbs
Consistent use of natural lighting in built spaces has multiple benefits. Research shows we are healthier, happier, and more energy-efficient when our living and working spaces are lit by natural light.
One of the best investments we made in creating our sustainable home is skylights. With extensive front and back porches, the house is quite dark in the winter months. These skylights create beauty and save energy. We’ll definitely be adding them to the kitchen with this next round of renovations.
Take time to consider the ways you can increase the amount of natural light in your sustainable kitchen, too.
Unfortunately, the sun doesn’t always shine. We are blessed to live in the age of readily accessible electric lighting. The sustainable living movement has brought a great deal of efficiency to our lighting options over the past decade. Be sure to select lighting fixtures that can accommodate efficient lightbulb shapes.
Eartheasy has written a comprehensive overview of the options and functions of all the various lighting available. Use it with the Sustainable Kitchen Design Checklist to make the right choices and investment when shopping ethically.
You’ll need to decide about your range hood.
Cooking your meals with fresh and local ingredients will bring heat, steam, and oil particles to the air in your kitchen. You’ll need to decide if a vented hood or recirculating hood will work best for your kitchen.
Bob and I chose a down vent system for our kitchen. Our ceilings are quite low, and the overhead vent originally installed seemed overbearing in the space. We wanted an open and airy feeling in the kitchen.
We also cut wide openings in the walls to create more airflow through the house, which is heated by a woodstove. The overhead vent was just in the way.
While I love the space efficiency, we weren’t prepared for the effect the downdraft has on the gas flames. I think we would make the same choice today, but that’s something I recommend thinking over as you choose.
A Ductless System
The other choice is a ductless or recirculating range hood. This will be your option if your kitchen cannot vent to the outdoors. (We vent through an unused chimney.) These hoods are great at removing particulate matter from the air, like smoke and grease. They will not remove heat or humidity. They have a charcoal filter that needs regular replacing and makes trash.
Cleaning, wear and tear on walls, countertops, and appliances, comfort and cleanliness. These are the reasons you’ll want to make the best choice when considering ventilation in your sustainable kitchen.
Cooktop Choices | Gas and Electric
If your home is not solar-powered, your choice between gas or electric for cooking may seem like choosing the lesser of two evils. Gas is obviously a fossil fuel. Most US powerplants are also burning fossil fuels to generate the electricity needed for an electric range.
Our kitchen was originally set for electric cooking. We chose to invest in a propane hookup for our new range for several reasons. We felt it was more efficient, yes. I also prefer a heat source that is more responsive to quick changes in temperature. Finally, I’m an avid food preservationist and cooking with gas is hotter and better for those projects.
There are two choices for the efficiency-minded cook when it comes to electric cooktops. Induction and halogen elements. Those old-school electric coils are the worst for efficiency.
Induction cooktops transfer electromagnetic energy directly to the pot or pan to create heat. Frigidaire explains:
An electric current is passed through a coiled copper wire underneath the cooking surface, which creates a magnetic current throughout the cooking pan to produce heat. Because induction doesn’t use a traditional outside heat source, only the element in use will become warm due to the heat transferred from the pan. Induction cooking is more efficient than traditional electric and gas cooking because little heat energy is lost. Like other traditional cooktops, the evenly heated pots and pans then heat the contents inside through conduction and convection. ~ frigidaire.com
You must use stainless steel, cast iron, or enamel cookware with induction cooktops for the heating process to work.
Glass Cooktops | Halogen Heating
The next-best option for electric cooktops is those made of glass. They heat with halogen elements that deliver heat immediately to the pot. Hunker explains:
Halogen cooktops use powerful bulbs filled with a halogen gas like bromine or iodine to create radiant heat, which heats the ceramic glass. The food cooks as a result of both the conduction between the ceramic cooktop and the pot, and also the direct radiation from the bulb itself. ~ hunker.com
The pot or pan must make perfect contact with the glass or ceramic cooking surface to work properly. Stainless steel is recommended.
It must be noted that people also love their glass cooktops because they are so very easy to clean. There’s got to be a checkbox for easy when we’re considering sustainable choices for our kitchen.
Water Filtration System
We currently use a standalone, 3-gallon water filtration system. A Doulton Stainless Steel Gravity Feed Filter to be exact.
I love it. It was affordable and has held up to consistent use for ten years. I clean it once a year and have never needed to replace the ceramic filters. There is no waste, unlike a Brita system.
You may choose to have a filtration system placed on your faucet hardware. There are a lot of options.
Step completely away from the single use plastics of bottled water. You don’t even know what that stuff is, anyway!
Know the source and quality of your life-giving water supply. Make conscious choices about the best option for your kitchen based on your lifestyle.
I’m an Amazon Affiliate. I use the program to recommend products I trust to help you create your seasonal life!
Out of a 16 hour day, I would say on average I spend a minimum of 5 hours in my kitchen each day. I eat mostly homecooked meals, I am a canning nut, and I love handcrafting specialty foods.
The kitchen is my happy place.
In addition to all that cookery, I have a workstation for my laptop in the kitchen. I’m cozy there and less distracted than other places in the house, including my office.
Bob and I are empty-nesters, so we don’t have to consider child safety when renovating the kitchen, but for some, this will be a primary concern.
I recommend you think about your current and future lifestyle when creating your sustainable kitchen. There’s no use investing in trendy items, even if they are sustainable, if you know you’ll only use them occasionally.
Lifestyle demands will impact everything from appliance size to storage needs. It’s worth exploring. Here are a few lifestyle considerations for planning your sustainable kitchen:
- Are you are a gardener? Will you be tracking in soil and mud regularly?
- Do you cook with herbs and spices frequently? How is the space for drying them?
- Do you use the freezer to preserve foods? How much space do you need?
- Are you more likely to use a cookbook or an iPad for recipes? What’s the best way to create ease-of-use?
- Do you entertain frequently? Does the serving space have easy access to the kitchen? Can the kitchen be a social space?
- What appliances make my life easier? What size appliances are appropriate for your lifestyle?
- Are you a fermenter? Will you need a fermentation station?
Keep your answers handy. They could be the make or break piece of information when you’re stuck in your choices. Track them on the Sustainable Kitchen Design Checklist for easy access.
Make Your Sustainability Choices Easy
When creating a seasonal life, you’ll always be looking for ways to eat fresh and local foods, reduce waste, be energy efficient, and eliminate toxins from your environment.
When you create your sustainable kitchen, keep these lifestyle goals in mind. Let them guide your choices with the aim of ease, comfort, and joy in every moment in the kitchen.
Create an Indoor Growing Area
Check out this quick video on why I believe growing your own food in some small way is so essential to creating a seasonal life.
Here at Lorrie Season, we preach the lifechanging benefits of growing your own food. When reaching for this goal, ease is essential for turning the aspiration into an essential part of your lifestyle.
Whether you need indoor growing space for the winter months, or you don’t have access to an outdoor growing area, keep this kitchen function top of mind as you design your space.
Growing Indoor Gardens
This course was designed to encourage you to grow salad greens during the winter months. It is equally informative for anyone wanting a seasonal lifestyle but with limited time or space for gardening. It’s an easy email course that will help you have safe and nutritious greens anytime you have a craving!
The course begins with a free download of the Plant Diary from the Kitchen Garden Planner and Journal. It’s the easiest way I know to track my indoor growing methods with detailed notes about growing success and obstacles to good harvests.
You can easily spend thousands of dollars on appliances and technologies while creating your sustainable kitchen. Of all your choices, composting can be the single greatest thing you do to be more sustainable in the kitchen.
Zero waste goals are ambitious in this single-use, disposable society. We’ll dig deeper into the whole topic in the Trash topic below. In the kitchen, however, food waste is top of mind for zero waste goals.
What is zero waste? The simple answer: We aim to send nothing to a landfill. We reduce what we need, reuse as much as we can, send little to be recycled, and compost what we cannot. ~ goingzerowaste.com
Plan for Success
Making a plan to compost while designing the kitchen will make your life so much easier. Unplanned composting attracts bugs, creates smells, and increases the likelihood you will simply throw food scraps away.
Food waste falls into the category of organic waste. That’s previously living materials that can be composted down into soil. The average household in the United States creates 650 pounds of organic waste each year. This waste, when sent to the landfill does not decompose sustainably. Landfills aren’t aerated and composting requires lots of oxygen. The whole mess winds up adding tons of methane to the atmosphere, and this negatively impacts the climate. You can read more here.
Composting systems will be different for rural, suburban and urban kitchens. Apartment living will have different composting needs than homesteads. Do some research, make your plan, and save the planet one food scrap at a time!
Trash and Recycling
Expanding out from composting kitchen scraps, your entire system of managing garbage, nonorganic waste, is essential for a sustainable kitchen.
Zero waste begins with choosing away from single-use packing. This is no easy goal, and we need a backup plan for recycling and the inevitable pieces of garbage we produce.
We have ugly compost bins on our beautiful back deck to collect our recycling. It’s one of the things I’m eager to remedy with our renovation. Our garbage can sits in the open near one of our counters. Same issue, same priority. Learn from our oversight and plan ahead!
Your garbage storage choice will be based on space and sanitary considerations. A little research will go a long way.
Just for the record, we don’t use a garbage disposal. We’re on a septic system and it just isn’t wise to add more particulate matter to the collection unit.
That being said, if you can’t compost, garbage disposals are the next best ways to manage food waste. Disposals simply grind up food wastes and send them down the drain to the local wastewater treatment plant.
Use this article from CleanWeb to learn more about the environmental impact of garbage disposal.
Food Preservation Requirements
Whether it’s saving leftovers from last night’s dinner or a peck of apples from yesterday’s farmers market, food preservation is an essential part of the sustainable kitchen.
Eliminating plastics is near goal #1 for a sustainable lifestyle. That includes plastic wrap, ziplock bags, and the ubiquitous plastic containers.
So, what’s a cook to do with her leftovers?
As with everything we discussed so far, a little planning goes a long way! Mason jars, beeswax wrappers, lots of Pyrex bowls with lids in all the sizes! That’s the answer. Think about the world of your great grandparents, pre-plastic.
These storage containers need storage space, the more organized the better.
Then, you’ll need a pressure canner and hot water bath canner for the actual work of preservation.
Perhaps a full-size freezer for food storage as well.
Finally, if you are a fermenter, you’ll need a fermentation station to let your newly fermented foods and drinks to get established before longterm storage.
Be sure to download the Sustainable Kitchen Shopping Guide to keep track of your wants and needs when it comes to creating a kitchen ready for food preservation.
Five Day Food Preservation Bootcamp
Are you new to preserving foods? Worried about skill-building and safe food preservation? We have the answer for you! Take the FREE 5 Day Food Preservation Bootcamp eCourse and learn basic techniques to safely put up summer harvests for winter meals. Click here to learn more.
So, here’s a glimpse into my marriage…
Bob and I do not have the same sustainability goals. Sometimes this creates tension for big decisions. Each of us picks our battles when making joint decisions about the best products for our home.
One of those compromises for me was our countertops. I capitulated and we have Corian in the kitchen. Part of the decision was the result of pure exhaustion. We were near the end of a 2-year renovation project that was way over budget. I just didn’t have the fight in me and I regret it almost every day.
If I had it to do over, which might just be the case now, I would choose concrete for my countertops.
Building materials, from flooring to countertops, windows to cabinets are expensive and should be chosen with a lifetime of use in mind.
Yes, we’re back to zero waste goals as well as limiting reliance on fossil fuels. I would never consider marble because I can’t get a clear understanding of the environmental impact of the quarries.
Our flooring is a limestone dust composite tile. We chose this material because we knew the kitchen would be the most heavily used room in the house. It’s 10 years old and shows very little sign of wear. When we renovate, we’ll keep the flooring as is.
Our kitchen cabinets are built of sustainable wood, or so we think. They are ESP Certified (Environmentally Sustainable Product). The certification isn’t as strong as we would like, but it was a step in the right direction. Unlike the countertops, we did select cabinets with timelessness in mind. They are well built (made in the USA) and highly functional for our lifestyle and storage needs.
You can also refurbish existing cabinets, rather than demolition and reinstallation.
Sustainability choices re endless!
When investing in appliances for the sustainable kitchen, there’s no beating the Energy Star rating!
ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible,and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. ~ energystar.gov
Refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, anything with a plug on it…always check the energy star rating to understand your costs over time for operating the appliance.
Many Energy Star rated appliances also come with state and local rebates to encourage energy efficiency. Click here to use the Energy Star Rebate Finder tool.
Green Cleaning Supplies
Once our sustainable kitchen is designed and built, you’ll need to keep it sparkly clean. Add research into cleaning products that actually clean and have a very low environmental impact. You’ll also want to consider your own health, as cleaning supplies can be quite toxic.
My favorites are Bon Ami cleanser, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day, and Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castille Soap. These get the job done, day in and day out!
Low/No VOC Paints
VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds. These governmentally regulated compounds found in paint products are harmful to humans and the environment. They’re what give fresh paint that particular smell and they continue to release into the air of your kitchen and home well beyond the first few days.
Low VOC paints do what they say. They have lower volatile organic compounds in comparison to more traditional paint products.
No VOC paints are produced without volatile organic compounds.
At the end of the day, I simply recommend purchasing paints clearly marked non-toxic. Also sometimes labeled ‘natural’, these paint products have the lowest VOCs and no other harmful solvents in the mixture.
Check out this post from MyDomain that breaks down the products for your ethical shopping needs.
Ethical Shopping Options
Here are five resources to make your sustainable kitchen shopping ethical and easy.
The Green Building Supply Company
The Green Building Supply Company, founded in 1991, continues to be the nation’s trusted source for the best non-toxic and eco-friendly building materials. They specialize in products that are safe for everyone—including the chemically sensitive—as well as safe for pets and the environment.
The website is comprehensive, with shopping categories for flooring, paints, home goods (like cabinetry), and cleaners. The business has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and I could find no significant bad reviews online.
Green Home Solutions
Greenhome Solutions offers high quality sustainable and green building materials. Find alternatives to traditional products that are healthy, environmentally friendly, and reliable.
This is a family-owned business out of Seattle Washington with a comprehensive website. Shopping categories include flooring, countertops, carpet, and cleaners, to name a few. They are particularly keen on cork flooring.
Energy Star Appliance Page
Yeas, we’re back to Energy Star because it is the one-stop resource for the energy-efficient appliances. And, it has that nifty rebate finder to help you save money on your renovation budget.
Is yours a luxury kitchen? You can get a tax deduction by working with Renovation Angel to donate your old kitchen prior to renovation. They also are a great resource for used kitchen products. Click here to learn more.
Elemental Green is the ultimate green home resource to dream, discover and design solutions for sustainable home building and renovation. This website is about product description and customer satisfaction stories. It will help you settle on green building products best suited to your need and budget.
The Sustainable Kitchen Shopping Guide
Well, now that we’ve covered sustainable kitchen design and ethical shopping with this 2019 guide, it’s time to get to work!
I’ve created this nifty checklist and planner to help you keep track of decisions made as you go through the various components of creating a sustainable kitchen.
It’s easy to use and absolutely free. Click here or the image below to download yours NOW!
Come Join the Party!
If you enjoy seeing life through the lens of the changing seasons, I invite you to stay connected. This is a community of activist-oriented gardeners, cooks, and nature lovers.
If you want a loving community to be a part of your seasonal life, please do anyone (or ALL!) of the following:
- Sign up for the newsletter and get my herbal teas and tisanes recipe book for FREE! Tea is always a welcome addition to any time in the kitchen.
- Join our FREE Facebook group where we’re always talking gardens and kitchens.
- Follow me on Instagram and watch the seasons unfold on my 5-acre homestead in Harpers Ferry, WV.
It is a workplace for food production and preservation that minimizes waste and toxins in the environment.
The most important aspect of a sustainable kitchen will depend on your lifestyle. It will most likely include one of the following considerations: food waste management, lighting choices, appliance efficiency, and water usage.
The best way to create a sustainable kitchen is to get clear on your sustainability goals and budget. Then, create a plan to create systems for food preparation and storage, waste management, water usage, elimination of toxins in the environment that are consistent with those goals and that budget.