You don't have to spend a lot to go green, but it's easy to make costly mistakes if you don't do your homework. There are no federal regulations for items marketed as eco-friendly so some green products might not be as green as you think. The folks at ShopSmart, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, spent months sizing up fridges, running dishwashers, burning light bulbs, and punishing faucets to find the best green kitchen products. Take a look at their tips, after the jump!
1. Get a water-saver faucet
• Why: A gleaming new faucet is an easy upgrade, but kitchen models can be water wasters compared with some bathroom faucets. Low-flow bathroom faucets with the Environmental Protection Agency's new WaterSense label are about 30 percent more efficient.
• Easy Green Fix: Until the EPA comes up with criteria for low-flow kitchen faucets (they're in the works), for $3 to $11 you can make most new or existing taps more efficient simply by attaching an aerator.
• One Possible Drawback: With lower flow, it might take a bit longer to fill that pasta pot.
2. Switch to watt-stingy lighting
• Why: Modern kitchens can use up to 2,000 watts for lighting because standard incandescent, halogen, and xenon lights are energy hogs. All that excess heat from lights might prod you to turn down the A/C to cool things off.
• Easy Green Fix: Switch to cool-burning compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in overhead fixtures, and also
• consider adding some LED or fluorescent undercabinet task lighting. This easy fix costs about $200 for five fluorescent fixtures.
• One Possible Drawback: Some-but not all-CFLs and LEDs cast a bluish or other funky-color light. Before you buy, ask if you can return the fixture if you don't like the way the light looks with your decor.
3. Put in a ceiling fan
• Why: Kitchens get hot, and if you use an air conditioner to cool things off, it will gobble up a lot of energy and money.
• Easy Green Fix: A ceiling fan in the kitchen will use only a fraction of the electricity that an A/C would.
4. Renovate with recycled stuff
• Why: A new countertop or cabinet style can change the whole look of your kitchen, but manufacturing them keeps power plants polluting the air and some green goods aren't as green as they might seem.
• Easy Green Fix: Before you buy new, see if you can find secondhand products.
5. Trade in the biggest energy hogs
• Why: The appliances in your kitchen that take the most energy to operate are refrigerators and dishwashers. The older these appliances are, the less energy efficient they are and the more costly they are to run.
• Easy Green Fix: It usually doesn't pay to replace working appliances with new ones. But when you do
• update, look for models that use less energy and are quieter. Though energy efficient models can cost more, you'll recoup the money as your utility bills shrink.
Image: The Dwell NextHouse Silicon Valley