Green Kitchen Tip #14
When we first got the idea in our heads of remodeling our kitchen, I began considering how to incorporate “green” materials. I did a fair amount of research before realizing that my choices were going to be difficult. “Green” really comes in many shades of gray. There is no one shining example of green countertop materials, but rather various considerations one must make about what values to compromise. In my own case, I was fairly certain that my countertops should be some material that boasted a long useful life, which lead me to drool over granite and marble, before considering the possibility of permanent stains and the necessity of regular maintenance, which led me to consider engineered stone. I also thought about stainless steel, but even while considering all of these materials, I had to try to justify the high energy input in their production and transportation phases. Fascinated by the lower impact of durable goods, I skipped over the less permanent, yet greener options out there. Now I have a different perspective.
It seems that while durability is an important quality to consider when making any purchase, less permanent materials also have esteemable value. It is easy for us to envision our lives continuing along their current courses ad infinitum, especially if we are happy in our situation in life. However life, by its very nature, is all about change, and sudden changes at that. I was a little shocked at how abruptly we uprooted from a home we loved and never wanted to leave, but it happens, and often without a lot of warning. If I had outfitted my kitchen with those pricey engineered stone counters, I never would have realized any benefit from idolizing their durability. The next owner might have found my color choice too conventional and torn them out in favor of something trendier. These things have been known to happen. Actually I witnessed first-hand this haphazard re-decorating effect when I returned to our old home on some unfinished business, only to fully embrace the notion that there is no accounting for other people’s tastes. Not that I don’t have my own unconventional decorating ideas, or am one to talk. My point here is just that there is a value to impermanence.
So if you are thinking about your green remodeling options, bear that in mind. I know I did not.
But what is black and white and green all over? Why recycling of course. OK, there are still shades of gray in the act of recycling – take plastic recycling (not cut and dry), and the necessity of using water resources to clean recyclables, etc. But if you can stand to re-use someone else’s discarded goods, you are in fact recycling and making the world a “greener” place. There are tons of useful and valuable materials being sold on Craig’s list every day. I had never even considered the classifieds as an option for remodeling. I would not have at all (the credit goes to my husband here), if we hadn’t moved into a home that was desperately in need of ANYTHING better than what was there. We didn’t just find “anything” either. We found solid maple cabinets and engineered stone counters, along with the stainless steel under-mounted sink I’d always had an eye for. How is it that we found my dream kitchen, for a more than fair price, and that I can walk away from the transaction without feeling a twinge of guilt about it? Oh, indeed feeling positively beaming inside over it?
Well, it isn’t all sunshine and little drops of chocolate, mind you, because remodeling is still remodeling. Plumbing and venting need to be moved to accommodate the new sink and range placement, and the cabinets need to be positioned based upon what fits where, etc. All in all it worked out to fit our space almost perfect, but the devil is in the details and all.
Side note: Again with my theme of impermanence – the family who originally installed my dream kitchen as their own dream kitchen sold their home shortly after remodeling to a fellow who demolished the house and is currently building condominiums.