Beside budget, style, color, durability, brand that influenced our selections in the past, kitchen cabinet manufacturers increasingly compete for our business on the basis of providing healthy cabinets.
Cabinets are often made of particle board, press wood, hardwood plywood paneling , medium density fiberboard etc. that typically contain formaldehyde , and other VOCs that are emitted as gases from certain liquids and solids including various binders, lacquers and paints. The higher the VOC in finishes and adhesives are used, the longer time it will take to dissipate and will continue to out gas after installation (even if it is at a lesser degree)
Because we spend 90 percent of our time indoors, chemical free materials are very important to protect our health, future immunity, enhance our quality of life, and contributing to the environment overall.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when considering cabinets for a new home or a remodeling project:
a Green Cabinet Maker
- works with formaldehyde-free and low or zero VOC adhesives, binders and finishes.
- has a written policy stating the company s commitment to environmental quality
- use sustainable materials and production
- using a local cabinet maker will help reduce the embodied energy as cabinets are expensive to package and ship
- efficient, just-in-time manufacturing process uses no material access, waste kept minimal
- offer clean design, simple aesthetics, FSC-certified and recycled woods
- works with materials used harvested or extracted in a conscientious way
- the manufacturing process does not harm or exploit the people that made it
- strive to manufacture, quality, well -made, durable and functional, easy to maintain product
- use materials that are at the end of their life easy to dispose in a safe manner
- use materials that are sustainably harvested-mature trees are selectively cut allowing younger ones to replace them
- use materials that are rapidly renewable, eg bamboo which is a grass not wood, grows like weed and very sustainable for cabinetry, or cork which spontaneously regenerates
- conserve by using wood veneers. Wood veneers are less wood (wood is a slowly renewable resource) All solid, engineered and reclaimed wood are FSC-certified
- applies useful application for discarded or waste materials from the manufacturing or building process
- provides MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) to disclose their furnishing materials. MSD Sheet list the product components to help consumers make the most informed choice for their home.
- meet LEED Green Building Rating System specifications for rapidly renewable resources, low emitting materials and can help earn points toward LEED certifications, including all adhesives used in assembling the cabinets
- use rapidly renewable materials, like bamboo; or wheat straw_wheatboard, it has proven to be just as strong as particleboard and as a rapidly renewable source growing in a single season, and is made without formaldehyde; or agrifiber that will decompose (although hindered by binders, resins and finishes) these boards and panels are manufactured from agricultural byproducts that are annually renewable. Keriboard is an engineered product using stalks of sorghum plants, and bamboo is used in a laminated plywood under the trademark Plyboo.
- use woods, veneers from managed forests,
- use formaldehyde free particle board or exterior grade plywood, cores made from marine grade plywood which emits lower formaldehyde levels
- use wheat straw_wheatboard, it has proven to be just as strong as particleboard, and is a rapidly renewable
- use locally or domestically harvested FSC-certified wood (LEED ) or salvaged wood
- use stains and water-based paints that are low or zero VOC and Green Guard or Green Seal certified
- use materials with third-party verification of source of safety that sets and measures air quality standards for cabinets
- use solvent free glues, factory cured and low emission finishes, check for safety.
- provide Material Safety Data Sheet . If the cabinets are imported, contact the importer or distributor and ask for manufacturing details. Material Safety Data Sheets list everything that goes into the product.
- use eco-friendly hardware, power coated steel:very low emitting VOCs, water resistant, sanitary, hypo-allergenic, low maintenance and very durable
- use face construction that can be solid wood, bamboo, agrifiber products, metal or recycled glass. Green cabinets don t support the use of endangered species, but if offer tropical wood, they are all FSC -certified
- stainless steel emits no chemical toxins of VOCs, hypo-allergenic, water resistant, low maintenance
Reusing cabinetry is always preferred especially if the cabinets are in good condition. Using salvaged cabinetry can be a way to reduce the impact of manufacturing the amount of material entering the landfills.
Clara Puskas is a Green Designer, Founder and CEO SIPgreen and xlkitchens.