How to Purchase Non-Toxic Cabinetry for Your Home

How to Purchase Non-Toxic Cabinetry for Your HomeAs a sustainable interior designer, clients often ask, “what makes kitchen, bathroom and other built-in cabinets green and sustainable?” I always begin my response with the three important aspects that need to be considered when investing in new cabinets, which are the (1) components (doors, drawer fronts and boxes), (2) finishes, paint and stains, and (3) distribution.

Next, you need to understand what sustainability means, so you can utilize its practices in making the best decisions about the requirements for your cabinets. In sustainable interior design and construction, there are three prerequisites that should always be considered: (1) Energy Efficiency, (2) Resources Efficiency, and (3) Indoor Environmental Quality.

1. When taking into consideration energy efficiency, strive to select a cabinet manufacturer whose production facilities are located as close to your home as possible. This will minimize the shipping distances and energy consumed in delivering the cabinets, as well as the carbon footprint. Based on your location, the best way to obtain energy efficient cabinets is to contract with a local cabinet maker that is willing to construct cabinets from resource efficient components.

Another important part of energy efficiency to consider is the manufacturing process. Cabinet companies that have earned the Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP) certification from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association (KCMA) have demonstrated that their production facilities strive to be energy efficient by using process by-products to generate alternative energy for the facility and by having a documented energy conservation program to minimize energy consumption. Be aware there are many cabinet manufacturers who do not apply for the ESP certification.

2. Resource Efficiency has to do with selecting a cabinet manufacturer that uses sustainably harvested wood products such as Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified woods. FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not for profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests. Request USA made and give preference for wood species grown in North America such as eastern maple, American cherry, red alder, hickory, etc.

Other commonly used resource efficient cabinet materials include:

• Veneers
• Plywood products such as SkyPly (
• Medium density fiber board products such as Arreis (
• Particleboard products such as Encore ( that do not use added urea formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

ESP certified manufacturer’s guarantee that at least 80% of the particleboard, medium density fiberboard, plywood and hardboard used in their cabinets meets the formaldehyde emission level of the California Air Resources Compwood ATCM and that it is third party certified to meet low formaldehyde emission standards.

3. Indoor Environmental Quality refers to the finishes, paints, stains, and glues used in cabinet manufacturing can have a considerable impact on both indoor and outdoor air quality. Use only manufacturers that control their production emissions, a requirement of the ESP certification, to ensure that outdoor air quality is not being compromised. The use of low or no VOC finishes, stains, paints, glues will ensure that once the cabinets are brought home for installation that the indoor air quality will not be compromised by off-gassing of VOCs. 

If you familiarize yourself with the above information and request your cabinet manufacture or dealer to supply you with the Safety Data and Spec Sheet that proves their cabinets meet these requirements, you will be investing in quality made green cabinetry that will not off-gas and will help to make your indoor air quality healthier.

We are here to help you make your home a healthy, soothing and sustainable place, so you can flourish, not just exist. To learn about our range of Sustainable Interior Design, Universal Design and Consulting services available in Connecticut, New York and areas beyond, contact us at 203.984.4695 or email us at

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Lynn Hoffman

203.984.4695 |