What's Cooking

Environmental Designs Stir Things Up in the Eco Kitchen

While the kitchen is the center of most American homes, it's often an afterthought when it comes to making environmental improvements. But considering that the kitchen consumes 20 to 40 percent of household energy, it's really a good place to concentrate your efforts. E, with the help of Green Pages eco-interior designers Andrew Fuston and Kim Nadel, has put together a model kitchen full of energy-saving appliances and recycled products.

The kitchen cabinets are from Becker Zeyko of Germany, recipient of the prestigious Blue Angel Award, which recognizes companies that excel in environmental manufacturing and product innovation. Engineered for beauty and durability, the cabinets come in 200 different styles, and the company ensures that no endangered hardwoods are used. Roar Varnes, CEO of Becker Zeyko's U.S. subsidiary, says the cabinets are 100 percent free of formaldehyde, a carcinogen that “outgasses” from standard units. “They're also free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which forms a poisonous gas if there's a fire in the home,” Varnes says. “Our cabinets can safely return to Mother Earth as ashes.” All packaging is recyclable, as are the cabinets themselves.

Photo by Elaine K. Osowski

Cabinets from Becker Zeyko lend beauty and durability to this
co-kitchen, which also sports energy efficient
appliances and reclaimed materials.

The dishwasher is from Sweden's ASKO, and its most distinctive feature is its reluctance to waste water. Conventional dishwashers use up to 10 gallons in a full cycle, but the ASKO gets dishes sparkling clean (thanks to a unique four-way spray system) with just 5.3 gallons. ASKO saves resources in other ways, too: Its dishwashers use 40 percent less electricity and just a tiny amount of detergent. Inner casings are made from surgical-quality stainless steel, and ASKO dishwashers are also triple-insulated, which means they're whisper-quiet in operation.

Refrigerators are typically big power wasters in U.S. kitchens, but Whirlpool's Energy-Wise units won a $30 million award through the Super-Efficient Refrigerator Program (SERP), run in conjunction with electric utilities. The 25.2 cubic-foot side-by-side unit in the eco-kitchen exemplifies the SERP principles-it exceeds federal energy standards by 38 percent. In conjunction with the worldwide ban on ozone-destroying chemicals, the 'fridge is also free of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Unfortunately, says Carolyn Verweyst, Whirlpool's manager of marketing communications, the Energy-Wise models, while still for sale at many retailers, have been discontinued. The good news is that Whirlpool's new side-by-side models incorporate many of their energy-saving features, exceeding federal energy standards by 25 percent.

Creda, while not yet a household name in the U.S., has 30 percent of the stove and range market in England, where it maintains an environmentally conscious factory. (CFCs have been eliminated from the production process, and manufacturing energy consumption has recently been reduced by 30 percent.) Creda was the developer, in 1968, of the convection oven, which is often championed by professional cooks. “The convection process moves the hot air around, reducing cooking times, allowing better heat penetration and better texture,” says Creda Vice President of Sales Michael DeCamp. The Creda convection oven in the kitchen has its heat source in the rear and uses a built-in fan to circulate warmed air, resulting in an oven without “cold spots.” Energy-efficiency is assured, because cooking times are reduced by 30 percent and temperatures cut by 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Creda Solarspeed electric glass cooktop in the kitchen uses halogen technology (similar to household lamps and car headlights, but more powerful) for very fast, even heating. The space-saving cooktop is easy to clean and sits flush with the countertop. Its Vent-A-Hood wall-mounted Emerald Series hood is super-efficient and helps keep the kitchen clean and odor-free. Complementing the cooktop and hood is a backsplash made from Terra-Green recycled glass tiles. Terra-Green, an Indiana-based company, is the only manufacturer in the world to mix ceramics with 55 percent recycled glass (the process is called Glass Fusion) to create a unique textured material, sold as the Tierra Classic line. Terra Green recovers and recycles all the ceramic wastes that are byproducts of manufacturing.

The eco kitchen sports a hard-wearing Big City Forest butcher block countertop, made from reclaimed maple. Big City Forest, a division of Bronx 2000, estimates that the wood it had reused by May 1996-more than five million board feet-saved the equivalent of more than 1,100 acres of timberland. Tap water in the green kitchen is purified-not filtered-by General Ecology's Seagull IV X-1 system, which is federally certified to remove cysts, bacteria and viruses.

The Green Kitchen Handbook (Harper Collins), compiled by Annie Berthold-Bond and the staff of Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet, is an excellent resource for more information. The only thing left to ask is, “What's cooking?”