Tips for creating sustainable spaces

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When planning a kitchen renovation, there are numerous things to consider, especially when you aspire to be as sustainable as possible.

Some may be more obvious than others, but budget and esthetics may not be the first that come to mind.

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“The best decision to make right out of the gate is to think timeless, not trendy,” says Mary Burgers, communications and creative director at Burgers Architecture. “Most people will go to Pinterest, or they’ll flip through magazines and go, ‘oh I love that, I love that,’ and it becomes this panic and absorption of whatever is of the moment right now.

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“So it’s best to think timeless and something that is not going to need a facelift in 10 years.”

This, she says, will make the design appeal to new owners years later, making it less likely the kitchen will be torn out and tossed in the landfill.

Natural materials and muted hues can make for a timeless look.
Natural materials and muted hues can make for a timeless look. Photo by Andrew Latreille

Timeless design often means opting for a muted colour palette and using natural materials for cabinetry.

Sustainable materials and appliances can push up the budget, but opting for less expensive materials isn’t always the best option. Burgers finds that when people become impatient, they often don’t have the budget to purchase long-lasting materials and end up with things that need replacing sooner than if they’d waited and bought higher quality products.

“When people are in a rush to renovate, they think ‘we’ll just start with a smaller budget,’ but it’s better to wait the extra year or two and have a little bit more of a budget to buy the high-end, durable products that will be cheaper in the long run,” she says.

With appliances and fixtures, she suggests investing in ones with ‘smart’ controls that turn off remotely if they’re accidently left on. Purchase energy-efficient appliances, especially those with the Energy Star designation, which reduces costs. And install faucets that have less water consumption and more aeration, she advises.

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“That’s all part of spending a little bit more and then that all plays into the more sustainable kitchen,” Burgers says.

Meantime, sourcing local materials to eliminate long-distance transport is an effortless way to support the environment. Take that one step further and purchase locally produced stone for counters, backsplashes or floors. Natural stone is an eco-friendly product and there are a variety of local choices like granite, basalt, slate and even marble, some of which is produced from quarries on Haddington and Hardy islands.

“It seems to be the building material with the lowest embodied energy,” Burgers says. “I think the calculation of how you produce it is relatively low and there’s lots of stone supply sources locally too, which is great. It kind of plays into that whole natural look that doesn’t look overly processed or manufactured. It’s a nice serene backdrop to any kitchen.”

Sourcing materials as close to home as possible is probably the most eco-friendly thing one can do, she suggests.

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