Read slowly -- if you're thinking of redoing your kitchen, it's time to get down to the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of going green.
Floors, cabinetry and countertops
Smith & Fong's Plyboo, available at ECO Supply Center (www.ecosupplycenter.com), can be used for flooring, cabinetry and even countertops. As anyone who's hacked down a rapidly encroaching bamboo forest in their yard knows, it's strong stuff and endlessly renewable. Concrete is another material that can be used for floors or countertops, with the added advantage that it can be tinted just about any color and mixed with lots of cool-looking pebbles (or anything else you might want to sink in cement). It's also a great conductor for radiant heat (installed underneath the flooring) and uses far less energy than forced air systems.
Above the countertop, for your backsplash, try tiles made out of recycled glass, like those made by Sandhill (www.sandhillind.com). For an even more cutting-edge look, look at Fortis Arbor's mosaic wood tiles in sustainable bamboo, teak or rosewood (www.fluxstudios.com).
We've all heard that fluorescent light bulbs are better energy savers than incandescents, but you can't use a dimmer with them, they contain mercury, and they can get pricey. LED lights aren't any cheaper, but they're even more energy-efficient, dimmable, and work well for under-the-cabinetry lighting. Add a Watt Stopper wall switch sensor (www.wattstopper.com), and all of your lights will go off automatically when you leave the room.
Every year appliances change, so your best bet is to check the Energy Star rating posted on the front and compare it to other models you like. Smaller is better but not always practical, so double-insulate things like ovens and choose a drawer-type dishwasher if you do more small loads than large. Gas uses less energy than electricity, so it's a natural choice for ovens, but you might want to consider buying a convection toaster oven for smaller meals. Induction cook-tops are the most efficient of all stovetops, but you can use only stainless steel and cast-iron pans with them. However, if you have kids, knowing that the surface remains cool while you cook is an added advantage.
By making just a few key changes, you can increase your kitchen's efficiency, cut down on your energy costs and reduce your exposure to nasty chemicals. Plus, you can go to bed at night knowing that not only are you helping out the planet, you're way ahead of the curve, and nobody will have a kitchen as amazingly green as yours.