I had read about Greentea Design a few years ago when an American supermodel cum eco-fashionista was espousing the virtues of the company. Wow, I thoughtlooking at the pictures, that’s pretty beautiful stuff! Imagine my delight when I saw that the company is based right here in Toronto. Hooray! Fieldtrip! (much more fun than staring at a computer all day).
I dropped by the fantastic warehouse space where Greentea resides on Carlaw, and Dale Storer took time out of his schedule to talk to me about his kitchen cabinetry business.
The kitchen and furniture making side of things grew out of Dale’s Asian antique import business. All the kitchen cabinetry is manufactured in Korea and shipped back here. “So, could you please enlighten me as to why your kitchen cabinets are considered ‘green?'” I asked him, staring at the most exquisite and intricate kitchen cupboards I have ever seen.
One of the designers had already told me that the kitchen cabinets are made from two kinds of wood (gingko or elm) and six different stains. Unlike Dutch elm disease which wiped out the majority of the elm trees here in Toronto in the 1970s, the Chinese elms weren’t affected. At any rate it wouldn’t have mattered because as it turns out, not a single tree is felled in the manufacture of these cabinets. All the wood used is salvaged from Korean homes or buildings that are about to be torn down. This waste wood would either be burned or end up in landfill, so it gets a second life as it’s transformed into beautiful cabinetry or furniture. Further, because it’s already been “seasoned” it is heavy, hard and very durable.
I know what you’re thinking: “But it’s not sourced locally. It all comes from Asia. How green is that?” And I’d say that you have a point. But the furniture is made with minimal waste and is less energy intensive because the milling has already been done. Further, to minimize packing waste, each cabinet is wrapped in packing blankets that the new owner keeps and can resuse. There is, of course a transportation carbon footprint, and it has recently been revealed by a study by the United Nations Environment Programme that shipping by boat isn’t as energy efficient as originally thought.
The one area Dale said they’re working on is minimizing the VOC (volatile organic compound) output, or off-gassing of chemicals, from the stains and adhesives used in the cabinetry manufacturing. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there.”
The kitchen cabinets themselves are works of art and probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen. While they have a decidedly Asian influence to them, they would fit in with North American homes, particularly those homes where a dark, rich stained wood would complement decor. One of the more intriguing and eye-catching aspects of the cabinets is the number of small compartments and drawers as well as the latticed or decorative woodwork on the cabinet doors. There is also the ability to design the entire kitchen around freestanding units, which means that pieces could, theoretically be moved into other rooms or out of the house completely if you have to move. You can watch a great video about a freestanding kitchen remodel here.
Greentea design provides an excellent interactive website, complete with the various cabinet sizes (stock or custom are available), kitchen layout opportunities and pricing so you can figure out just how much your cabinetry will cost. In fact, Dale told me that 60% of Greentea’s business comes from the US as telephone or internet orders. “Canadians are more hesitant about ordering straight off a website without having seen live examples of something first. We don’t have the same catalogue habits that Americans do.” I have to admit, I too am a bit of a touchy, feely kind of person and fit in to that category.
Combining this cabinetry with countertops made of IceStone or PaperStone, and perhaps a reclaimed wood floor or cork floor and some Energy Star appliances, would produce one eye-catching, timeless and green kitchen, that proving yet again that “green” doesn’t have to conjure up visions of “hippy treehuggers” — as my 13 year old son likes to refer to me.
Greentea Design: 388 Carlaw Ave., Suite 200, Toronto ON, M4M 2T4