Thursday, January 24, 2008

More On Green Cabinetry

Laurie Burke, over at Kitchen Design Notes, has a great post today called "Not All Green Products Are Alike".

She details how some kitchen and bath products manufacturers are "greenwashing" their products in their advertising.

Suddenly! EVERYTHING is green!

I think we can all see that this is so. And I think it is a positive trend, even though the products may not be all the advertising says they are...right now.

This just means you have to be careful about what you believe and what you buy, if you are really serious about buying green.

But, really, that's nothing new. Is it? Today's shoppers have this wonderful World Wide Web at their disposal to research and learn all about products: The good, the bad. the UGLY, the lies, and the truths. If you can't get the truth from the makers, you can sure hear it from the users. Even concerted efforts to plant green stories can not silence detractors on the Web.

A while back I blogged here about Crystal Cabinet Works' efforts toward sustainability in their manufacturing processes: Green Cabinets by Crystal.

The thing that impresses me so about their effort is that they began it back in the early to mid 1990's. And it was not greenwashing either. They did it for the health of their employees, who were exposed to "all that stuff" day in and day out. They also did it for their surrounding community, in Princeton Minnesota, and their state, which was asking businesses to clean up the environment for residents and workers.

So, while their Green-Core cabinets are at the cutting edge of green cabinetry in the U.S., their catalyzed varnish finishes have been water-based for years and thus healthier for their employees and the people who buy their products...Green-Core or not! And their particle board, plywood and MDF, are also low-VOC and low-formaldehyde for the same reasons. In fact, every component of their manufacturing process, from the lighting to hybrid vehicles driven by employees and scrap wood used for plant heating, has been examined to make it the best possible choice for a healthy environment.

Another company that has been doing green cabinetry for a lot longer than it has been "fashionable" is Neil Kelly Cabinets, up in Portland Oregon. They were the first company in the U.S., to my knowledge, to make a green cabinet box.

Neil Kelly has a responsibility to continuously improve our products and processes as we work toward the goal of becoming a sustainable company. We will make our business decisions taking the environment, product quality, service quality, and profitability into account. We will continue to educate ourselves as new information and technology become available. We will partner with our suppliers and trade-contractors to share information and resources toward this goal. We will work to make our industry more sustainable as we work to make ourselves more sustainable. We understand that a healthy future for our children and grandchildren demands that we honor this pledge.

To help us achieve the goal of sustainability, we will:

Strive to educate ourselves and our clients about sustainable products and practices
Strive to meet the criteria of The Natural Step as we make choices for our business
Strive to reduce our energy use
Strive to promote and use products that are sustainable
Strive to reduce our waste
Strive to reuse and recycle as possible
Strive to design and build in a sustainable way
Strive to be a leader in our industry in this regard as we do in other areas

Now I have never been a Neil Kelly Cabinets dealer like I was once a Crystal Dealer, so I don't have intimate knowledge of their products. But as a kitchen designer I know and respect the Certified Kitchen Designers who have worked with Neil Kelly for years and what inspired Kelly to go the extra distance toward sustainability long ago.

I'd be interested to hear about any other cabinet manufacturers or large shops building green cabinets with green finishes in green factories in the U.S. and abroad. If you know of one, please let me know too....Long post. Sorry.