Sustainable Living In Saratoga Springs

September 2010 Archives

As more people are looking into green renovations the question arises "What makes kitchen cabinets green?"  There has been a lot of buzz regarding green counter top options and  that is primarily what customers coming in the store are looking for.  Don't get me wrong, I am very happy about that, but why put a green counter top on kitchen cabinetry that is at best not sustainable in nature or worse actually out gassing toxins into your home.

Below I have outlined some important aspects of cabinetry to consider when purchasing non-toxic and sustainable cabinets.

1. Let's take a look at what is inside your cabinets.  The "box" is usually made from plywood or pressboard which are glued together, most often with glue that contains formaldehyde. Instead look for the box to be made with formaldehyde-free plywood, FSC certified solid wood or wheat board. Any adhesives should be low VOC.

2. Options for the face of your cabinets can be FSC certified wood, reclaimed wood, metal, bamboo, or other architectural panel such as Kirei board.

3. Finishes: Paints and/or stain and hardware.  Choose a low or no VOC finish. Hardware such as handles, knobs etc can be  recycled or made from recycled material.

4. Lastly, think of distribution.  Ideally you don't want to ship your cabinets from California to New York.  Keep production as close to home as you can.

What should you do if its too late.  You can't replace your cabinetry for budgetary reasons or just installed cabinetry . Not to worry, all is not lost!  A solution is to remove the face of your cabinets and thoroughly cover the cabinet boxes with a no VOC water based sealant. If purchasing a sealant, it is highly recommended that you make sure to completely cover every square inch of surface as well as all cracks to prevent further outgassing, otherwise it will continue to contribute to outgassing.

So what's the most important aspect of your green renovation project?

Now is the time of year that I start getting phones calls regarding spring renovations that went wrong.  The complaint is usually that they brought in soil and seeded in the spring and now they have a lot of crab grass and very little actual grass.  They are particularly frustrated because they often have spent a lot of money and expected to have a lush lawn by summer.


Spring is actually a very difficult time to seed a lawn because it is the start of weed season and of hot dry weather in general.  Grass is a plant that, even when well established, likes cool wet weather.  Those little seedlings don't stand a chance to the weeds that are inherently  suited to hot, dry weather and poor soil.  However, the good news is that Fall is a great time to reseed or renovate your lawn.


A couple pointers:

1. If you bring in top soil or even compost, test the pH and adjust accordingly.  It is always good to test your pH every couple of years. Cornell Cooperative does a soil pH test for a buck.

2. Aerating or dethatching can help improve soil to seed contact which will increase the amount of seed that germinates.

3. It helps to remove the crabgrass plants so that they don't drop their seeds on the soil. Pulling out the plant will also loosen the soil as well.

4. Keep the area manageable in size. If your seed completely dries out before it germinates its lost its viability and won't germinate no matter how aggressively you water after the fact.  It's hard to keep up the water schedule if you don't have a sprinkler system.

5. Use a starter fertilizer, preferably organic.


Most people aren't aware of strand woven bamboo let alone strand woven poplar, however, award‐winning independent news source Sustainable Industries announced EcoTimber Woven Recycled Poplar as one of its 2010 Top 10 Green Building Products award winners. Sustainable Industries' Top 10 Green Building Products guide is an annual publication profiling industry‐leading green building products selected by a panel of expert judges and Sustainable Industries' editorial team.

So what is this floor made of..Woven poplar is comprised of 100% post industrial scraps of FSC certified poplar from the furniture industry that is combined with a proprietary process of resin infusion and high compression. This makes it not only the most environmentally friendly floor on the market but also extremely durable and extraordinarily beautiful.

It's woven construction makes is "engineered yet solid". It is "engineered" and "solid" - wood veneers are compressed using a heat reactive glue, so it acts "engineered" in the sense that it is made from individual wood fibers (as opposed to a big chunk of wood; this is beneficial from a "stability" standpoint since bigger pieces of wood move more than smaller pieces), but acts as though it is "solid" in the sense that there is no concern of wearing through the "wear layer" to expose a different core material below (which is the case with other "engineered" woods that consist of a "wear layer" on either a plywood and HDF/High Density Fiberboard core).

The adhesives are E0 and low‐VOC adhesives [Formaldehyde emission: 0.4mg/L ‐‐ anything below 0.5mg/L is considered E0].  Adhesive is Phenol‐based (ie: "No Added Urea formaldehyde" [NAUF]), and therefore suitable for LEED inclusion.

Woven poplar can be installed at or above grade, nailed or glued and can even be installed over hydronic (water) based radiant heat systems. As far as maintenance the floor is 3000 on the Janka hardness scale (white oak is 1360) and while it can be sanded and refinished it is thought that it will need less refinishing over it's life cycle. 

So finally, let's see some pictures..poplar_last_dance.jpg


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Karen Totino, owner of Green Conscience in Saratoga Springs, has a history of caring about environmental issues starting with her own family and neighborhood. Beginning with her already successful organic lawn care business, Karen became actively involved in community efforts supporting work on cleanups and conservation through Friends of Kayaderosseras, a not- for -profit organization focused on conserving the creek. As an energetic entrepreneur, Karen wants to effect change in a greater way through offering green alternatives to consumers who seek better choices for their families and for the environment.