K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jul 15 2010

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The dark side of green

kevinhenry
At a recent design show, I had the opportunity to see, firsthand, the highly touted sustainable all-glass kitchen from a very high-profile Italian manufacturer. At first glance, it appeared to be the “Holy Grail” of environmental kitchen design. The doors, drawers, box, countertop and toekick were all made of glass and it was this overuse of glass that got me thinking, “Just how green is glass?” When we think of glass, the first thought that comes to mind is its ability to be recycled and reused over and over again, but more often than not, the creation process is often overlooked.

When seeing this all-glass kitchen for the first time, the thought of fingerprints and chipped edges come to mind long before the impact that the creation process of glass has on the environment. It is understood and appreciated by the populace at large that glass, in most cases, is 100% recyclable and can be used in the process to create new glass, but in recent years, several environmental organizations, as well as government agencies, are beginning to take a closer look at how glass is created.

The formula and process to create glass have changed very little over the centuries. Sand, soda ash, limestone, dolomite and feldspar are mixed together and then baked in a blast furnace. This process of bonding and melting can play out over several hours or even days before the glass even begins to cool.

The intense heat required to manufacture glass—2,750 degrees Fahrenheit—takes a tremendous amount of energy consumption, resulting in enormous greenhouse gas emissions. It has been calculated that producing one ton of glass will create two tons of CO2. The manufacturing of glass releases high doses of health-threatening pollutants into the atmosphere, like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, as well as toxic particulates made of metals, chemicals, acids and dust that are small enough to easily enter the nose and throat, and reach the lungs.

On further investigation, mining for sand—the primary ingredient of glass—is a practice that is becoming an ecological nightmare as the demand for glass increases on a global scale.

And if that wasn’t enough to put you off an all-glass kitchen, the shear weight of glass, especially when used in this application, would leave an immense carbon footprint when being transported from Europe to the United States.

So we must ask ourselves, just how “green” is an all-glass kitchen? As discussed in the beginning, the beauty of glass is its ability to be recycled over and over again. Its fatal flaw is the cost to the environment in its primary production.

Kevin Henry

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Green. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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