Green design, particularly in the case of cabinetry, continues to open doors for both kitchen and bath design professionals and clients. Sustainably produced products not only offer new business opportunities and create healthier homes, they also allow for the creation of beautiful kitchens and baths that are equally beneficial to the environment at large.
Even cabinet interiors are getting a green overhaul, with environmentally friendly interior fittings becoming increasingly popular (see Intuitive Interiors).
As Jennifer Roberts, author of Good Green Kitchens, states: “Never have expectations been so high for the kitchen. It has to look terrific and hold up to the demands of our fast-paced lifestyles…we expect our kitchen to exude health and nurture body and soul. Increasingly, we’re coming to appreciate that creating a healthy home means taking care of people and the planet.”
The Green Spin
What this means to kitchen and bath designers is that they now have an opportunity – and some believe a responsibility – to educate themselves as well as their clients about design that’s good for the environment. That means asking themselves, “Am I up for the challenge of educating consumers and creating designs utilizing products that can help save the planet?”
While environmental concerns play an increasingly important role in every facet of people’s lives and the products they choose, the design community must be sure these concerns are incorporated into other compelling aspects of a brand or design. For that reason, designers must market environmentally friendly concepts as part of an overall package that includes the tried and true craftsmanship, value and warranty that consumers have come to expect when remodeling their kitchen or bath.
It’s important to note that consumers don’t expect perfection when it comes to green design. If sustainably produced cabinetry and energy-efficient appliances can be specified, that might be all that is needed to satisfy clients. What they want to know is that the companies they buy from, and their designer, understand the environmental challenges facing society, and that these parties are trying to do better. The key is to balance the conventional benefits with sustainability benefits.
A big question about eco-friendly products is whether consumers are willing to shell out green to get green. Since cabinetry is often the single biggest purchase in a kitchen remodel, this is an important consideration. However, there seems to be a certain level of industry consensus indicating that, increasingly, consumers are willing to pay extra for organic products, or products that promote personal health and well being. While the green seal of approval says a product is good for the environment, this can also translate to health benefits to the homeowner – something that can be used to help market green.
Additionally, the number of consumers weighing environmental concerns in making purchase decisions is trending upwards as green awareness increases.
For every cabinet company, there is a different standard for the word “sustainable.” European manufacturers have had to meet more stringent manufacturing guidelines and so, for many years, have outpaced their U.S. counterparts.
But as the green movement has taken hold in the U.S., the cabinet industry has quickly jumped on board, working to produce more environmentally friendly products and tweaking business practices to reflect the national conscience.
Because cabinetry is such a major component of the kitchen, eco-conscious consumers are going to be concerned with how it was produced, the distance it traveled and from what materials it was constructed. Even cabinet interior fittings are receiving scrutiny for their eco-friendliness.
For green-conscious consumers, the concerns about cabinetry will also begin before the wood for their cabinets has even been cut. Eco-conscious clients want materials that they can be certain went through sustainable growing and harvesting before it even arrived at the factory.