Can You Renovate A Kitchen Sustainably?

Use this guide to cover off everything you need to know and think about when renovating your kitchen sustainably.

A newly refurbished kitchen with concrete work tops.

Society has shifted its focus on to environmental issues and sustainability vastly over the last few years, and finally we are seeing it become a consideration in both internal and external property design too. When it comes to home improvements and property renovations, there can certainly be a great deal of waste created – and for kitchens in particular, sourcing can be difficult given the varied amount of materials and elements required. 
This isn’t to say that kitchens can’t be renovated in a sustainable manner if done carefully and in a considered manner. But what is there to consider and how to go about it? Let Refresh Renovations guide you…
A partly completed kitchen renovation


The long-held attitude by many in the kitchen fitting industry is to rip out and waste everything; replacing it all with new items even if they are still in working order. However, now that kitchens can be purchased cheaper than ever, newer fitted kitchens are not necessarily as long-lasting nor of as high quality as whatever may be being removed. 
We don’t have unlimited resources, and if fittings don’t need to be disposed of, they shouldn’t be just by default. A kitchen that has grown tired in design may be thought of no value at all but other avenues should be considered. The average kitchen provides two tonnes of kitchen waste which can be negated through the upcycling, recycling or reselling of the products that would otherwise go to landfill. 
Where fittings are being replaced, it is always recommended that those purchasing a new kitchen spend more than the most basic pricing of product – so that design is premium right down to the last detail and will last as long as possible once installed.
A chopping board with carrots on reclaimed wood surfaces

Materials Used

While many homeowners do now simply purchase kitchens straight from the high street with little to no personalisation, if taking on a kitchen renovation in a more bespoke manner, there are ways to source materials to ensure your build is as sustainable as possible.
Ideally, materials should be sourced as locally as possible; with timber ideally from trees that were already being felled. The European FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) offer traceability of wood and UK-grown wood is usually easy to track. Any chemicals used in your kitchen should be kept to a minimum and ideally doors and fittings should be suitable for repainting – so that if you or future homeowners get bored, they can be given a quick lick of paint rather than being torn out completely.
Many providers of raw materials for interior design offer recycled and sustainable options. These often cost a little more than their standard source materials but last just as long, if not longer.

Hardwearing Worktops without a Hard Impact on the Planet

Worktops in the kitchen need to be exceedingly hardwearing which is why they are often disregarded in terms of sustainable material choices. Concrete is a current favourite amongst homeowners and kitchen designers alike but has a very high carbon footprint. Granite has long been a popular choice but can have ethical implications and is not always easily traced.
Recycled glass can make an excellent alternative to concrete and is made from glass shards that would otherwise go to landfill. This glass is crushed and set into resin; not looking unlike concrete once installed. It isn’t porous and won’t stain. 
Recycled paper is more frequently being used for worktops – a less considered but very sustainable method where layers of paper are impregnated with resin – and Durat, a plastic product created from manufacturing waste that is popular in Scandinavia. Reclaimed timber is perhaps the most popular eco-friendly worktop option and allows for longer landhaul transportation than otherwise would be considered sustainable.

Flooring with Eco Credentials

Kitchens can be easily floored with recycled or reclaimed materials, but also from newly created natural fibres.
Recycled rubber is growing in popularity as a flooring option, as is sustainably sourced or recycled wood. The latter is particularly popular in the form of parquet – but this does take time to fit and finish. 
Although linoleum has waned in popularity since its heyday in the 1990s, it is making a ‘green’ return with Mamoleum Lino: a linseed oil and putty mix that is entirely natural and a sustainable choice.
A completed kitchen with reclaimed wooden cabinets

Sourcing Used Kitchens

As above, when removing kitchen fittings, there’s no reason why these can’t be resold should they still be usable and in good condition. So those looking to renovate their kitchen can look too to buy the whole thing secondhand.
Websites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Freecycle and Gumtree often have complete kitchens listed – sometimes alongside components including appliances, worktops and kitchen islands. There are even now secondhand kitchen chain stores such as The Used Kitchen Company; with a surprisingly high quality of products on offer including ex-display models as well as those traded in by others simply replacing theirs.

Disposing Responsibly of Old Kitchens

The British Government’s Clean Growth Strategy suggests all “avoidable waste” should be avoided by 2050 – so more than ever, kitchen fitters are looking to waste as little as possible. Buyers do exist for used kitchens, so if you can, sell the lot! Kitchens don’t need to be sold as a complete unit necessarily.
When a kitchen is no longer in good enough condition to sell, a responsible waste contractor can be hired. Those contractors with sustainable credentials will separate out all waste and recycle what they can.
Indeed the truth is that by their nature, kitchen renovations can be hugely wasteful. Yet it doesn’t take a great degree of extra time, cost or resource to ensure that materials are sourced ethically and sustainably. Kitchen designers and fitters are becoming increasingly more concerned with the long term impact of their work and this is leading to more environmentally friendly choices being made in the industry daily. As this becomes more mainstream, it will only become easier – so the future for kitchen renovations is certainly looking, well… green!

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