Re-use, recycle, repurpose was the mantra that guided Janice and Terry Donald when they tackled the remodel of the original kitchen in their 1955 ranch house. The Donalds, who own Eren Design and Remodel, in Tucson, Ariz., worked with designer Kelly Potter to come up with a plan that would not only make sense of an outdated, cramped kitchen and an odd assortment of adjoining rooms, but also focus on green remodeling, something that had interested the couple for a number of years. They pledged that, wherever possible, new materials that were introduced to the space would be sustainable. They also tried to select products that maximized energy efficiency and traveled a minimum number of miles.
“We ended up saying ‘nothing east of the Mississippi River,’ but we broke that rule on the island countertop,” Janice says. It came from Atlanta and was once part of a beech floor in a Vermont elementary school. The Bertch custom cabinets — from Waterloo, Iowa — just squeaked by on the travel rule.
“The primary motivator, from a business point of view, was to let clients know that you can do a green remodel and it can be pretty,” Janice says. But before things could get pretty they had to get down and dirty. The Donalds’ three-R’s mantra really kicked in during demolition. “We’re fortunate to have a landfill that recycles all plastic and paper, but we were very cautious about what went to the dump,” she says. “We reused where we could. All of the framing members were reused, and anything that came out whole we donated to a Habitat [for Humanity] store.” The old beadboard ceiling was repurposed as window trim, mahogany cabinet shelves were planed and milled to create “new” baseboards, and Terry Donald — an avid woodworker — is hanging on to surplus wood for future projects.
Selecting appropriate products presented the steepest learning curve. “You can’t go to a store and find these things,” Janice says. “More green products were coming on the market as we were researching.” They ended up with sustainable cabinets, Energy Star appliances and windows, insulation from recycled blue jeans, an all-natural Marmoleum floor, a tankless water heater, EcoTop countertops made from compressed paper and bamboo, and tiles created from 50% pre- and postconsumer recycled materials. As for additional expense, Janice estimates that the cabinets cost 15% to 20% more than a non-sustainable choice, but other green practices and products came in at just 1% or 2% more.
“We know that green isn’t for everyone,” Janice says. “But so far we haven’t found anybody who isn’t intrigued and interested.”