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Ways to Remodel your Kitchen with Sustainability in Mind

When considering a home renovation, the kitchen often takes precedence as the busiest space in the house. With sustainability at the forefront, eco-friendly options are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, according to the latest survey on kitchen trends in the UK by the renovation and design platform Houzz, the vast majority of homeowners prioritize sustainability during their remodel (93%). Surprisingly, many choose sustainability for its long-term cost-effectiveness (75%). So, how can you approach your kitchen renovation with sustainability in mind?

“A kitchen renovation is typically a substantial undertaking,” explains Amanda Pollard, senior editor at Houzz. “It’s likely to generate significant waste and involves selecting various materials and components, all of which impact the environment.”

Mark Byers, director of Oliver Green Kitchens, highlights that the kitchen industry relies heavily on virgin raw materials for various elements like cabinetry made from wood, appliances crafted from metals, and worktops cut from stone. “Fortunately,” says Byers, “the industry has responded to the demand for raw materials by embracing recycling. However, consumers also play a crucial role by making thoughtful material choices when updating their kitchen.”

According to Felicity White, director of Felicity White Interiors, “Kitchen renovations are typically the most expensive area of the home to renovate, so creating a kitchen that’s going to stand the test of time is also important financially.”

Mark Byers emphasizes three key factors when selecting materials: recycled content, durability, and end-of-life considerations. “Manufacturers play a significant role in incorporating recycled elements into their products,” he explains. “However, as consumers, we should inquire about the amount of recycled material used in a product.”

Next, prioritizing durability over price is crucial. According to Byers, opting for the cheapest products can ultimately result in higher costs over time due to their limited lifespan. “Unfortunately, inexpensive products often lack recycled materials and are challenging to recycle themselves,” he cautions. “Therefore, the ability to recycle, refurbish, or repurpose products after use is a crucial final consideration.”

Felicity White emphasizes the importance of evaluating existing kitchen elements. “We often inquire whether clients can retain any components of their old kitchen,” she explains. “In some cases, the cabinet carcasses may be well-constructed, allowing for the replacement of cabinet fronts and handles, or even the wrapping of cabinet fronts to avoid disposal.”

If a complete overhaul is on the agenda and the existing kitchen is still in good shape, White suggests considering selling it through second-hand kitchen vendors like Rehome. She advises opting for natural materials, highlighting FSC timber and plywood as superior choices for cabinets and door fronts compared to particle board or MDF commonly used by large kitchen retailers.

“Natural wood, if properly constructed and treated, tends to last longer due to its strength and repairability, unlike engineered wood,” explains White. “Additionally, engineered wood may contain high levels of formaldehyde, which can be harmful if released into the air.”

Byers warns against excessive use of MDF or avoiding it altogether. “Given its limited recyclability, most MDF products end up being used as fuel at the end of their life, emitting carbon and other harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.”

“Laminate worktops are also not ideal,” he points out. “Predictably, both of these materials are extensively utilized in the kitchen industry due to their affordability. As a general rule, prioritize products that are recyclable and can be repurposed or refurbished.”

When selecting materials for your new kitchen, Houzz experts recommend researching the origin, manufacturing process, and composition of each item, according to Pollard. “It’s also advisable to source items locally whenever feasible and minimize the use of chemicals.”

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