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While “healthy” means different things to different people, there’s no question that consumers want their kitchens to possess attributes promoting a healthy lifestyle – and kitchen designers are increasingly taking this into consideration in their design and product choices. Whether saving energy, promoting safety or inhibiting the growth of bacteria, today’s kitchen products need to focus on health and well-being, from both an individual and global standpoint.
This is particularly true in the case of appliances, where energy efficiency promises cost savings and good environmental karma.
But healthy isn’t just about saving energy; it can be about protecting clients’ health and well-being with such products as cooktops that integrate safety features, or appliance components with built-in resistance to bacteria.
On a more global level, the healthful concept can be extended to include any appliances that are seen to be preserving to the environment, or that are classified “green,” such as water-saving dishwashers and cooking appliances with energy-efficient heat sources.
Of course, many products claim to be environmentally friendly and client-safe. So how does the designer make the best choices?
Energy Star, the U.S. government’s program to rate and certify products which consume less energy than the government-established standards, evaluates many types of appliances.
The incentive designers offer consumers with these products is decreased energy use, which, results in a lower energy bill. In 2005, Energy Star reported that certified products saved Americans a total of $12 billion on their utility bills.
Founded in 1992, the program’s mission is also to reduce greenhouse emissions because less energy consumption means less power plant production. To increase public awareness, Energy Star partners with manufacturers to offer tax credits or rebates on certain products – something designers can promote in their showrooms, as well. After all, it’s easier to get clients to care about the planet when it’s also in their best financial interest.
The cost benefits of the program are widely known; according to energystar.gov, there is 40% recognition of the program by Americans shopping for appliances. But the environmental conservation side seems to be lost on many consumers, says Brian Stone, CAPS, CR of Dave Fox Remodeling of Columbus, OH.
“People have been programmed to know that Energy Star means their bill is going to be lower, [but] they don’t realize there’s a green component to it,” he says. For designers looking to promote “green design,” this can be a great way to educate consumers and differentiate their showroom from competitors.
Although energy-efficient appliances are becoming more prevalent due, in part, to rising energy costs, there are other factors to consider when specifying appliances that promote overall health and well-being. These include the inclusion of materials that discourage bacterial growth and products’ independently approved green status.
But what makes an appliance truly green? Eco-labelers might have the answer – though this is still down the road for the appliance industry.
Eco-labeling, a method of environmental certification, is on the rise, says Laura Spriggs, communications manager for the Greenguard Environmental Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission is to identify and certify low-emission products that meet stringent guidelines for indoor air quality. Currently Greenguard certifies over 130,000 products, including many kitchen products, but appliances have yet to make the list.
“It’s a question of interest in doing so by the appliance manufacturers,” Spriggs comments. “When they see a public demand for healthier, low-emission appliances, they’ll see a greater need to have third-party certification.” And third-party certification is key to improving the green movement, she says. She sees this as the wave of the future as a way to recognize truly green products, noting, “There are plenty of firms making green claims, but untested claims don’t mean much.”
In the coming months, KBDN will examine the individual components that help to create healthy, environmentally friendly kitchens.