Products help kitchen to be eco-friendly

Home & Garden

December 10, 2006|By Claire Whitcomb | Claire Whitcomb,Universal Press Syndicate

If you cook healthy food, it stands to reason that you would want a healthy kitchen.

That means avoiding plywood and particleboard, which give off gaseous formaldehyde, and steering clear of PVC and vinyl, which leach lead, cadmium and phthalate plasticizers. When they burn, they give off dioxin, one of the major byproducts of their manufacture.

But let's skip the bad news. The good news is that healthy kitchens are easy to come by, as demonstrated by Jennifer Roberts in her excellent book Good Green Kitchens (Gibbs Smith, $29.95).

Roberts' book is full of products you'll want to know about. Here are a few that top the eco-friendly list.

Linoleum, a mix of linseed oil, saw dust and pine resin, is making a comeback in fresh modern colors and patterns. It's available in sheets, tiles, borders and click-together interlocking panels.

Cork is soft underfoot, stain- and moisture-resistant and available in beautiful colors, ranging from tan to black-brown. Made from scraps left after the manufacture of wine bottle corks, it is a natural product, harvested from the outer bark of cork oaks, which continually yield cork for 150 years. Most cork flooring comes as glue-down tiles or tongue-and-groove flooring. Some varieties use formaldehyde as a binder, and you may wish to choose a healthier alternative.

Plywood produced by Columbia Forest Products is made with a soy adhesive instead of formaldehyde.

Bamboo is the darling of the design industry. Beautiful and durable, bamboo replenishes itself in three to five years and needs little, if any, irrigation, pesticides or fertilizers. Solid bamboo flooring can be sanded and refinished just like hardwood. And like wood, it needs to be protected from spills with a sealant.

Quality counts when it comes to bamboo. Manufacturers of inexpensive flooring often use formaldehyde as a binder. Better brands do not.

If you're pining for hardwood floors or cabinets, don't hold back. Just consider the origin of your wood. You'll want to avoid over-harvested and often illegally logged woods such as teak, ipe (Brazilian walnut), jatoba (Brazilian cherry) and mahogany.

Look for wood that's sustainably harvested and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, To find certified wood providers, search the database at

Ceramic and glass tile get eco-kudos because both are made with materials that are abundant and their production has minimal impact on the environment. The best tiles may be ones that have recycled content or are found at salvage yards. Ebay is a good resource, too.

And don't toss your old cabinets. If you can't reinstall them in a mudroom or a laundry room, donate them to Habitat for Humanity or list them in the free section of

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