Perhaps the trickiest part of creating a healthy kitchen has to do with choosing the right cabinets. Cabinetry offers its own unique set of concerns, such as the use of proper wood, paint and adhesives. Indeed, there are plenty of places for cabinetry to veer into an unhealthy direction if not handled properly.
For the designer, paying close attention to cabinet choices is key when designing a healthy kitchen. After all, the last thing the green, health-conscious client wants is to spend thousands of dollars on ventilation, sanitary surfaces or flooring, only to find the most expensive component of the kitchen be the least healthy.
Patricia Gaylor, a New Jersey designer whose green pedigree includes designing homes for the International Builders Show, notes there’s a resistance to commit to green design by some manufacturers.
“It’s our social responsibility, as designers, to maintain the movement. It’s our responsibility to our clients to demand more green products,” she comments. “It’s especially important in the kitchen and bath when specifying certified woods and hardwoods.”
In the past, typically small companies and custom shops were the only places to find green cabinetry. Now, most large cabinet companies offer green options. St. Charles Cabinetry identifies itself as eco-friendly because it has a high recycled-content percentage, zero Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) off-gassing in manufacturing and use, and includes integrated compact fluorescent lighting.
As in most green topics, third-party certification is crucial to help contractors, builders and consumers discern what companies are providing woods grown and harvested in an environmentally sound way. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international not-for-profit membership-based organization with the mission of promoting responsible stewardship of the world’s forests. It works to certify forests that meet that set criteria. What that means to cabinetmakers is that they can be sure that their wood is coming from a sustainably managed forest.
Weyerhaeuser’s Lyptus hardwood products come from Eucalyptus trees grown on plantations certified by Brazil’s national sustainable forestry standard, CERFLOR. Lyptus comes in a variety of grades of lumber, plywood and veneer.
The Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) also plays a pivotal role in the green movement with its Environmental Stewardship Program. The program seeks to provide qualifying companies with tangible ways to support sustainability in various areas, including air quality, product resource management, process resource management, environmental stewardship and community relations. Companies are evaluated through a point system, and the list of those that have qualified include the biggest names in the industry.
Portland, OR-based Neil Kelly Cabinets’ “Naturals Collection” cabinets have drawn wide attention from the green community. The cabinetry is comprised of FSC- certified woods, formaldehyde-free agriboard (or wheatboard) case/drawer materials and low-VOC glues, adhesives and finishes. The certified woods include maple, cherry, red oak and bamboo, among others. The company also offers formaldehyde-free laminate frameless cabinetry.
Among many manufacturers, wood is considered the premier building material.
For an earth-conscious client looking to have custom cabinets made, reclaimed wood is a good, if somewhat pricey, option. McCloud, CA-based TerraMai, a member of the FSC and the U.S. Green Building Council, specializes in recovering and stocking reclaimed woods from around the world. The company offers a wide variety of species, including redwood, douglas fir and teak. Elmwood Reclaimed Timber also offers a line of reclaimed and remilled woods and wood products.