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Top choices for turning your kitchen green in 2012

A big focus for 2012 is the use of sustainable materials and with the abundance of fantastic earth-friendly multifunctional high-tech materials, energy efficient appliances and beautiful natural products there is no excuse why your kitchen can’t be designed with healthy and wholesome food preparation in mind.

Kitchen Countertops

Simon Daniels Managing Director of Salvocorp (Pty) Ltd, distributors of Samsung Radianz Quartz explains that “when considering the effect of your purchasing choices on the environment there are thankfully sustainable options available with regards to choosing a kitchen countertop namely Granite, Marble and Engineered Quartz. Although granite is very popular quartz is considered the healthiest of the three. Most natural materials used for countertop surfaces, including granite, can release small quantities of Radon into your home. Radon is a colourless and odourless gas found in different levels all over the Earth. It is said to be the second most common cause of lung cancer. What makes engineered quartz so unique is that is does not release Radon, since it is sealed at fabrication. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has stated that indoor pollution can be up to 100 times higher than outdoor pollution therefore it’s very important to consider what materials you’re using in your kitchen renovation.

Quartz is plentiful around the world and can last for a very long time, meaning it generates a smaller impact on the natural environment. Impact, scratch, stain and heat resistance, the naturally mined 93% quartz content makes it stronger than granite and four times tougher than alternative materials. It is highly resistant to damage from ambient cooking-related heat, too. Because it's non-porous and is completely sealed, there is no need for further sealing or waxes.

Lighting and Storage

“Kitchens are both a place to meet with friends and family as well as prepare and store food therefore it’s important to incorporate sustainable decorative features that will enhance your kitchen’s current functionality,” says Rose Mc Clement of Design Monarchy. These include bulkheads above the island made from reclaimed timber with suspended pendant lights or a bulkhead built around the peripheral of the kitchen with recessed LED lighting splashing colour onto the ceiling. “LED lighting initially costs more but has been proven that due to its very long life span it is more cost effective in the long run,” continues Rose.

Rose also highlights the big move towards chic industrial looking kitchens mixed with warm and rustic features. Reclaimed timber beams are used as features and the wood for cabinet door fronts in white-washed paint effects for a more vintage look. Bamboo is also hugely popular in kitchen design and renovation because of its sustainability as one of the fastest growing plants in the world growing up to 100 cm (39 in) within a 24 hour period.

Walls

With regards to paint and tiles, an alternative that not only looks beautiful but is also easy to maintain is painted glass splashbacks used behind the hob up to the extractor and even all around the kitchen. Should you decide to re-paint your kitchen choose eco-friendly low VOC, solvent free interior paint products that are also free of Ammonia, Formaldehyde, APEO’s (Alkylphenol Ethoxylates) and CIT’s.

Flooring

Bamboo flooring is used because of it hardiness, excellent durability and easy maintenance. It not only looks attractive but it is still affordable and you’d not only be doing the environment a favour by installing bamboo flooring into your home but you’d also be increasing the value of your property too.
Another rapidly renewable resource is cork, which comes from the bark of trees and can be harvested every nine years. During the manufacturing process it is mostly recycled cork that is used and is very popular because of it softness underfoot, good insulation and water resistance. Stone, slate and rubber are also good eco-friendly options for your kitchen floor.

Water Saving Features

Taps with aerators are a must for green enthusiasts as it saves water by injecting air bubbles into the water stream so you use less but still maintain the same amount of pressure. Instant hot water dispensers can keep hot water at the tap, saving thousands of litres of water a year by eliminating the need to run the water until it gets hot. Heating the water at the source uses about 10% - 20% less energy.

Appliances

Appliances approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Energy Star programme use 10%-50% less energy than standard models reducing energy costs. Many dishwashers and washing machines are installed with eco-friendly washing options that will save on electricity.
Magnetic Induction stove tops have started to enter the South African market and how it works is to virtually produce instant heat due to its magnetic coil that transfers energy into the cookware and heats it quickly. Energy is transferred only to magnetic materials such as cast iron or steel, so the stove top stays cool to the touch and only the pan gets hot. Magnetic Induction is 25% more efficient than electric and 35% more efficient than gas.


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