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Outfitting your dream (green) kitchen

Want to make your eating space eco-friendly without doing a massive renovation? You're in luck. GreenDAY's Marisa Belger explains how replacing a few key items — from sponges to utensils — can get you on your green way.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

The bathroom and the bedroom serve their purposes and the living room is ideal for lounging, but in my book the kitchen is the most important room in the house.

Growing up, my family’s most important discussions were held over a bubbling pot of tomato sauce, while loading the dishwasher or while digging into a meal. And now that I’m the owner of my very own kitchen, I’ve found that it’s still my favorite place to hang out. And the way it’s looking now, my baby son will be following in the family tradition. He clocks at least a couple hours a day in this prized room, eating a variety of mushy foods, chugging on a bottle or banging objects vigorously against his high chair tray.

That’s my boy.

With the next generation’s eye set squarely upon me, I’m hoping to become the ultimate green example. And I’ve found that there’s no better space to go eco than in la cucina.

There are so many ways to give your kitchen a green face-lift. Some are more expensive than others, some are more extensive than others, but like any environmentally friendly adjustments you make to your life, even a small step is a step in the right direction. Whether you’re considering a full renovation or a just a few eco additions, it’s easy to infuse environmental awareness into the greatest room in the house.

Some places to start:

AppliancesDishwashers, refrigerators, microwave ovens — appliances have always been the biggest energy suckers in the kitchen, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. It turns out that the quickest route to a greener machine is also the best way to reduce your energy bill. When considering new appliances, look for those with the Energy Star label. Appliances that have received this greenhouse gas-reducing stamp of approval keep up with energy efficiency guidelines created by both the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy. And choosing an Energy Star dishwasher or refrigerator can also save you up to a third on your energy bill. Learn more about Energy Star products at

FlooringI associate linoleum with the burnt oranges and mustard yellows of ’70s kitchens, but the kitschy floor option is not only cooler than ever, but eco-friendly, too. Modern takes on linoleum score huge eco points with a composition list that is derived primarily from nature. Linoleum is often made from things like pine tree rosin, wood flour and jute and colored with pigments that are toxin-free. Other eco-conscious floor options include cork and bamboo, which are both rapidly renewing resources.

CompostingDo you ever feel like veggie peels and eggshells are overrunning your kitchen? If so, there’s a way to put those scraps to good use. Whether you live in the country or city, there are composting options that will help you turn your waste into valuable fertilizer. Understanding the ins and outs of composting can be complicated, so stay tuned for a future column dedicated to the subject. Until then, check out this cool, odor-controlling under-the-counter compost pail at Gaiam.

Trash that can’t be composted has to go somewhere, and for me that place is a garbage bag made from recycled plastic. Seventh Generation makes tall kitchen bags that are thinner than the bags we grew up with, but significantly more eco-conscious — a compromise that seems more than fair.

DishwashingI probably spend more time washing dishes than eating off of them, so it’s important to keep the cleaning process as green as possible. I’ve eco-fied my dishwashing experience by using only soaps made from all-natural, biodegradable ingredients (I like Seventh Generation’s lavender dish liquid — I’ve convinced myself that the essential oils help me relax while I scrub last night's pots and pans) and investing in sponges made from actual sponge — i.e., 100 percent cellulose. Twist’s Naked Sponge does the job with no dyes and no synthetic materials.

AccessoriesAs for the gear that keeps a kitchen going, it’s now simple to outfit your eating space with contemporary green goods that are as stylish as they are environmentally aware. Bambu makes my favorite products, with cutting boards, bowls and utensils made from bamboo, every green hostess’s favorite rapidly renewing grass. For your next party, check out Bambu’s Veneerware, the eco-alternative to the paper plate. The line of sleek disposable plates and utensils is made from bamboo that biodegrades in four to six months — and they look incredible stacked up next to the buffet.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.