Preferred built and manufactured in USA
There are three primary considerations when choosing green kitchen cabinets:
- components (doors, drawer fronts and boxes),
- paints, stains and finishes, and
However, before we begin, let’s consider what being green means in general and then apply these principals to cabinetry specifically. The three pillars of sustainable design and construction are energy efficiency, resources efficiency and air quality (both indoor and outdoor).
With respect to energy efficiency consider a green cabinet manufacturer whose manufacturing operations are located as close to your project site as possible. This will minimize the shipping distances and energy consumed delivering the cabinets to the jobsite (as well as the carbon foot print of the delivery). Based on your location, probably the best way to secure energy efficient cabinet is to contract with a local cabinet maker who is willing to construct cabinets from resource efficient components such as those listed below.
Another important aspect of energy efficiency is the manufacturing process. Cabinet companies that have earned the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) certification from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) have demonstrated that their production facilities strive to be energy efficient by using process by-products to generate alternative energy for the facility and by having a documented energy conservation program to minimize energy consumption. However, please note that there are many energy efficient cabinet manufacturers who do not apply for ESP certification.
With respect to resource efficiency, select a green cabinet manufacturer that uses sustainably harvested wood products such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified woods (given your preference for USA made, consider wood species grown in North America such as eastern maple, american cherry, red alder, hickory, etc.).
FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests; for more information go to www.fsc.org/about-fsc.html.
Other commonly used resource efficient cabinet materials include:
- plywood products such as SkyPly (Roseburg Forest Products www.roseburg.com ),
- medium density fiber board products such as Arreis (Sierra Pine www.sierrapine.com) and
- particle board products such as Encore (Sierra Pine www.sierrapine.com) that do not use added urea formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
ESP certified manufacturers guarantee that at least 80% of the particleboard, medium density fiberboard, plywood and hardboard used in their cabinets meets the formaldehyde emission level of the California Air Resources Compwood ATCM and that it is third-party certified to meet low formaldehyde emission standards.
Lastly, the paints, stains and finishes (and glues) used in kitchen cabinet manufacturing can have a significant impact on both home air quality as well as outdoor air quality. Seek out manufacturers that control their production emissions (a requirement of the ESP certification) to ensure that the outdoor air quality is not being compromised. The use of low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints/stains/finishes/glues will ensure that once the cabinets are brought to the jobsite for installation that the indoor air quality of the home will not be compromised by off-gassing of VOCs.
There are currently 140 US and Canadian cabinet manufacturers that have earned the KCMA ESP certification as well as many other manufacturers that are devoted to sustainable practices that are not KCMA members. Note that some companies exclusively produce green cabinets while others offer a single line of green cabinetry.
The following is an abbreviated list of cabinet manufacturers to consider:
- Neil Kelly Cabinets – www.neilkelllycabinets.com
- Berkley Mills – www.berkeleymills.com
- Pacific Crest Industries, Inc. – www.pacificcrestindustries.com
- Columbia Cabinets – www.columbiacabinets.com
- Crystal Cabinet Works, Inc. – www.crystalcabinets.com
- Huntwood Industries – www.huntwood.com
- Henry Built – www.henrybuilt.com
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