Nachhaltige Küche: ökologisch einrichten & kochen
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Sustainable kitchen: this is how to furnish your kitchen ecologically

When people talk about sustainable cuisine today, don't you immediately think of where ingredients come from, of organic meat and animal welfare as well as organically grown vegetables? Welcome aspects we are happy to pay for to benefit the environment. Not only, though, should the food that ends up on our plates be sustainable in nature, but also the environment in which meals are prepared and cooked, in other words: the kitchen itself. Ecological kitchen furniture, energy-saving kitchen appliances, sustainable shopping, environmentally-aware cleaning and waste sorting are all factors that go into giving you an ecological kitchen. You shouldn't, of course, neglect climate-friendly and sustainable recipes either. This site tells you how to create a cooking environment that is based on a resource-conserving, sustainable concept – from planning and furnishing to use and cleaning.

What does sustainable kitchen mean?

The sustainable or ecological kitchen embraces a whole raft of considerations. It all starts with the choice of kitchen furniture which should be produced with a focus on conserving resources, continuing on to using kitchen appliances that are as energy-efficient as possible, ecological cleaning and extending right through to shopping. Unpackaged food, regional and seasonal products,as little meat as possible, waste sorting, avoiding plastic of all kinds, preserves in jars rather than tin cans – all these things and much more besides are part of a kitchen that is to be or become sustainable. And also using a shopping list to avoid unplanned purchases, some of which may have to be thrown away later on. Because disposing of perished food and unfit for use weighs on a kitchen's sustainability footprint.

Definition of sustainability in the kitchen

The "Lexicon of Sustainability" describes the term as meaning the protection of resources and goods and ensuring the continued availability of reference objects. This definition also includes consuming no more than can be created through regenerative growing practice. In terms of the kitchen, this means that kitchen furniture must be manufactured in a way that conserves resources, that the electrical appliances used – i.e. cooker, oven, refrigerator and freezer, but also toaster, blender and other small appliances – use as little electricity as possible on the one hand and come with a long life cycle on the other. And we cannot, and must not, ignore smaller-type kitchen items, such as containers, cooking spoons and the like. In the sustainable kitchen, these items are not made of plastic and synthetic materials, but of glass and certified wood. That's the one side of the coin.

On the other, this means that a kitchen merely fitted out with cabinetry that could be described as sustainable is far from being a sustainable, ecological kitchen on every count. Because it's also about using the kitchen and kitchen appliances, about the water and electricity consumed. This, too, is also where the dishwasher, for example, plays a part. It is also about what we buy, how we store food and whether we have to throw food away. It is also about avoiding waste and sorting it properly – and about how we go about cleaning. Because cleaning the kitchen in a sustainable way with degradable cleaning products is also part of the end-to-end concept behind ecological kitchens.


The benefits of a sustainable kitchen

The principle of sustainability is characterised by the fact that it not only benefits the environment and conserves resources. No, people benefit too. Let us show you why.

Sustainable kitchen cabinetry and appliances are made from materials that are either of natural origin – in the case of cabinets, for example, wood from certified forestry, stone, bamboo or similar materials – or from materials that contain as few harmful substances as possible or none at all. Because using cabinets and appliances constantly releases these pollutants, leaving a negative impact on our health. Incidentally, the materials used for making furniture are only sustainable if their transportation to the place of processing involves only short distances, keeping pollutant emission low.

Needless to say, quality and workmanship also play a key part. Cabinetry, appliances and materials are only sustainable if you don't have to make new purchases all the time. In the long run, hard-wearing products save hard cash. When buying large electrical appliances for the kitchen, the focus should be on energy efficiency class. This criterion tells you how much electricity refrigerators, dishwashers or freezers use. This is not only kind on the environment, but also makes financial sense for you – after all, you have to pay for the energy they use.

Of course, the sustainable kitchen also includes recipes that are environmentally friendly, climate-friendly and sustainable. These recipes start as early as the ingredients, i.e. with shopping, for which the above list provides a number of examples. Yet, sustainable, climate and eco-friendly recipes also take into account that, for example, the oven does not have to be on for hours on end, or that the focus doesn't have to be on regional products only but can also use food that's in season. By the way, carrots and white cabbage come with the smallest CO2 footprint.

And being conscious of the way food is stored is also a criterion for the sustainable kitchen. Developing a good strategy for storing food, you kill two birds with one stone. Because for one thing, not all food has to be stored in the refrigerator as this always increases the amount of electricity it used – and because some foods, such as bread, go bad more quickly in the refrigerator. You shouldn't even refrigerate tomatoes and bananas. On the other hand, it makes absolute sense to avoid plastic and plastic bowls when storing food, because this way, you will avoid consuming microplastics. These, namely, get into food stored in containers of this type. Anyone opting for products, such as glass, ceramic or clay for storing food in, will benefit from the sustainability of these materials. This also applies to fish slices, cooking spoons and similar kitchen utensils.


Finally, cleaning the kitchen with biodegradable and sustainable cleaning products also comes with benefits – for the cabinetry, utensils and storage containers on the one hand, and for you, as a user, on the other. Anyone applying aggressive cleaning agents to clean the kitchen risks damaging its surfaces with the chemicals contained in the products used. Biodegradable cleaning products, in contrast, are gentle on materials. Environmentally friendly products are, of course, also beneficial for you yourself, as they are not harmful to the respiratory tract or the skin. And last but not least, you will also be doing much to reduce the burden on waste water if you clean your kitchen using natural and eco-friendly products.


Sustainability in comparison to traditional kitchens

In kitchens that aren't made or fitted out in any sustainable way, the impact they have on the environment and people using them is often many times higher. This all starts with the kitchen cabinetry and work surfaces, which are often coated with industrial lacquers or varnishes. On top of this, the plywood and chipboard panels often contain substances, such as styrene or formaldehyde, which are used as solvents or binders. These substances are then released during the course of use. As described above, this also applies to plastics, microplastics or chemicals contained in containers, cooking utensils or small electrical appliances.

If you only focus on short-term savings in your kitchen by opting for cheap and non-sustainable furnishings and equipment, you will end up paying the price, not only in terms of health, but also financially. Because cheap products simply break more quickly, which means you have to replace them relatively often. Secondly, electrical kitchen appliances, whether small or large, almost always come with a significantly lower energy-efficiency class than their sustainable counterparts. They use considerably more energy which, in turn, has negatively impacts on your electricity bill.

Incidentally, there are also sustainable criteria for the cooker. Traditional kitchens are usually fitted with an electric cooker and ceramic hob, where most of the heat is lost. To begin with, this means you need more energy to cook food. Secondly, the costs are relatively high. Gas stoves are much better because they are cheaper to run. Once ignited, infinitely variable flame control and immediate heat make this possible. And induction hobs come with benefits over ceramic hobs too.


How to furnish your sustainable kitchen

You have to start somewhere if you want to furnish and design your kitchen in a sustainable way. So, why not with choosing ecological kitchen cabinetry? This not only includes cabinets and worktops, but also the kitchen table and chairs. Yet kitchen furniture is by no means sustainable if it's simply made of wood – there's far more to it than that.

Choosing sustainable kitchen furniture

Although wood is, by its very nature, a renewable resource, if it comes from regions where forests are cleared on a large scale to make land available for grazing cattle, for example, wood can no longer be termed a sustainable material. Make sure that the wood used as the raw material for making your kitchen furniture carries a label, such as the FSC and PEFC certificate. This will ensure that the wood for your kitchen furniture comes from manufacturers who produce at least individual items of furniture in a climate-neutral way, offset their CO2 emissions within set deadlines or at least deal openly with their CO2 emissions (while at the same time making every effort to reduce them). There are also other labels, such as the Golden M, ÖkoControl, Blue Angel, Eco-INSTITUT or PEFC. Later on, we'll come back to what they mean and the requirements furniture manufacturers need to meet to receive such labels for their furniture.

But it doesn't always have to be wood. Today there are good alternatives available, particularly for your worktop. Neolith, for example, a ceramic material that looks and feels like stone. It is extremely hard-wearing, recyclable and is made from a blend of silica, feldspar, clay and mineral oxides. Natural stone is also ideal as it's not compounded which means it can be produced using an extremely low amount of energy.


Tips on choosing ecological materials

When choosing the right materials for your sustainable kitchen, you can, of course, take guidance from the points mentioned above. Yet you should always make sure that the kitchen's design appeals to you too – with no compromising. After all, it's also important for you to feel at ease in your ecological kitchen and enjoy spending time there. So, when making your choice, look out for the labels mentioned and chemical-free materials, but also make sure you go for a design you absolutely love.

Sustainable kitchen furniture often goes hand in hand with understated, elegant design. If you keep the furnishings on the simple side, then a few new accessories in the kitchen are usually all you need to create a stunning look. This not only means using a minimum of materials and saving resources, but also money and input. And savings are also sustainable.

Remember to spare a thought for greening up your kitchen. If you use a few potted herbs for decoration, you can underscore the kitchen's sustainable character with this type of planting alone – and even derive practical benefit from them when cooking. But it's not only in culinary terms that you benefit from greening up your kitchen. Plants, like weeping fig, calathea (prayer plant), white sail, flamingo flower or various indoor ferns, not only look attractive, they also purify the air and make your kitchen even more ecological and healthy.

Remember to spare a thought for greening up your kitchen. If you use a few potted herbs for decoration, you can underscore the kitchen's sustainable character with this type of planting alone – and even derive practical benefit from them when cooking. But it's not only in culinary terms that you benefit from greening up your kitchen. Plants, like weeping fig, calathea (prayer plant), white sail, flamingo flower or various indoor ferns, not only look attractive, they also purify the air and make your kitchen even more ecological and healthy.


Sustainable Kitchen appliances and utensils

The major electrical appliances and the kitchen's cabinetry define the first impression a kitchen leaves. But if you want to furnish a kitchen sustainably, ecological kitchen furniture and energy-saving appliances alone are not enough. Because, needless to say, the ecological idea continues through at all levels. We are talking about containers and kitchen gadgets, like fish slices, cooking spoons etc.

Inspect your cupboards and take a look at the storage containers you use to keep foods in, like cornflakes, muesli, pasta, garlic or onions. And are there possibly not other containers in the refrigerator you keep cheese and cold meats in? They will probably be stored in plastic containers too. To call a kitchen sustainable, it's essential to see plastic food storage boxes vanish from the kitchen – not necessarily immediately, but at the latest when you need new kitchen helpers and ways of storing food. There are plenty of outstanding alternatives that are also much better for storing food.

Garlic and onions keep longer if you refrigerate them in a screw-top glass container, such as a rinsed-out jam jar. Small clay containers are also ideal for this purpose. Simply fill unprocessed food, like pasta, into tall glass containers which, at the same time, will also make an attractive decorative element for your kitchen. Muesli, nuts, cornflakes and the like can be stored much more sustainably in glass containers than in plastic boxes. Incidentally, this also applies to food that's already been cooked, i.e. if you have a few portions left over after a meal. As a general rule, simply don't use plastic storage containers any more – not even short term. This comes with another benefit: no microplastics or plasticisers can get into your food. This is a latent danger with food storage containers. A study by Ökotest has shown that these products release microplastics and formaldehyde in everyday use.

Key terms used in relation to sustainable kitchens

Technical terms used in relation to sustainability

When things are produced in an environmentally friendly way and are durable too, that's when we talk about sustainability. The term was coined by Hans Carl von Carlowitz (1645 – 1714). Writing in his work on forestry, Carlowitz said that man must not cut down more trees than can grow back again. The principle's most rudimentary form. Yet it was only in 1972 that we saw the Club of Rome begin raising society's awareness of sustainability. Finally, in 1992, the term found mention in the 1992 UN Report when sustainability was framed as a universal policy goal.

Read our list below to find out which technical terms from the cosmos of sustainability also apply to sustainable kitchens.

  • Ecological footprint: this is an indicator that expresses the fact that all natural raw materials existing on Earth need space to grow back and renew. These raw materials are, for example, used to produce energy and clothing and, of course, food too. So, in the narrower sense, the ecological footprint of a foodstuff indicates how much land it takes to produce. Used in general terms, however, it usually also includes the amount of water needed in making a product and the amount of CO2 it generates until it gets from the place of production to the point of sale, such as by road, water or air.

  • Bee mortality: in the kitchen, you can help to stop bees from dying by the way you shop. Anyone buying products that come from industrial-scale farming will be helping to see the disappearance of more and more flowering meadows.

  • Biodegradability: plastics or chemicals used in the kitchen are not biodegradable. But there are good alternatives.

  • Rainforest clearance: this is done primarily to gain pasture land for cattle. Anyone eating large quantities of beef will be helping to exacerbate this process of deforestation.

  • Fairtrade: nobody can do entirely without products from faraway countries, think of coffee for example. When you buy fair-trade coffee, you will be supporting the idea of improving the working and living conditions of the people who have produced your coffee or cocoa.

  • Recycling: this means that resources enjoy a long life by being recycled and reused over and over again. In the kitchen, you can help this model to flourish by buying furniture and kitchen utensils made from materials – such as wood – that come from recycled timber.

  • Food waste: sure, having to throw away perished food happens. Untreated fruit and vegetables from the market often go bad more quickly. So, only ever buy the amount of food you really need.

  • Intensive livestock farming: anyone not eating meat will be helping to discourage this form of farming which rarely breeds and raises animals in the appropriate way. Eating smaller quantities of meat also helps to avoid supporting this form of farming – if the meat comes from an organic farm and, wherever possible, from a farm in theregion.

  • Microplastics: The tiny fragments of plastic – usually smaller than half a millimetre in size – break away from plastic boxes of the type we often use for keeping ingredients and food in.

  • Organic farming: managing farmland in a way that's in harmony with nature. You can encourage this method of farming by buying certified organic products.

  • Pesticides: cooking sustainably avoids food from production that uses pesticides. Fruit, for example, is much better and healthier if left untreated.

  • Overfishing: Like eating fish? To keep it this way, and ensure that the range of fish and seafood on offer can continue to be as diverse while also preserving fish stocks, you should avoid endangered fish species, such as tuna or eel.

  • MSC certification: when buying fish, look out for the MSC label. It denotes sustainable fishery and is more compatible for global seafood stocks than other types of fishing.

  • Aquacultures: fish from controlled breeding, aquaculture protects stocks of wild fish. But you should never believe this myth if you want to cook sustainably. Because aquacultures usually feed fishmeal that comes from wild capture.

  • Zero-waste shop: some retailers offer their products without packaging. Ideal for the sustainable kitchen.

  • Vegetarianism: abstaining from meat and fish as well as other seafood.

  • Veganism: complete abstention from the use of animal-based products.

  • Zero waste: zero waste is probably something that's impossible to achieve, but if you try to produce as little waste as possible, you'll at least be coming close to this goal. The result: you will be wasting even fewer resources, making a major contribution to a sustainable, ecological kitchen.

Certificates and classifications

Above, we touched on the subject of certificates and classifications for kitchen cabinetry etc. At this point, we'd like to take a closer look at a small selection of different labels and quality marks.
  • DGM emission label: DGM stands for "Deutsche Gütegemeinschaft Möbel" (German Furniture Quality Association). The label takes account of the pollutants which, after purchasing an item of furniture, will be emitted in the kitchen, aiming to protect you from any adverse impacts on health. Needless to say, this label is not given to furniture or kitchen cabinetry containing adhesives or other substances releasing emissions harmful to health.

  • Golden M: Golden M is more of a general quality label. Basically, the label provides confirmation that the manufactured piece of furniture meets modern quality standards; it is also awarded by the German Furniture Quality Association, DGM.

  • Blue Angel: an eco-label awarded only to kitchens that are deemed particularly eco-friendly. Alongside this, a whole raft of occupational health and safety requirements must be met in the production process to receive the label.

  • GS quality mark: to be eligible for this label, furniture must meet specific conditions with regard to safety, resilience and consistency of material.

  • PEFC: this is the world's largest alliance for guaranteeing and enhancing sustainable forest management. The PEFC label is only given to furniture if 70 percent or more of the wood used to make it is PEFC-certified.

  • FSC: the abbreviation stands for "Forest Stewardship Council". Awarded since 1993, this is the oldest label for sustainable wood use or forest management. It is not only given to furniture but also to pencils, toys and books made from wood that comes from responsibly managed forests.
  • RAL: quality label for climate-neutral furniture production: this label is given on the premise that the producing company is climate-neutral. This is often achieved through CO2 certificates.
  • ökoControl: furniture is awarded this quality label if it is virtually free of harmful substances and is also made from renewable raw materials that do not come from destructive forest exploitation.

  • Eco-INSTITUT: among other aspects, the institute tests furniture for harmful substances, such as chemicals. A product is awarded the ecoINSTITUT label if is particularly low in emissions and contains hardly any or no harmful substances.
Click here to discover more about Nolte Küchen labels and certificates


What makes a sustainable kitchen worthwhile

Long gone are the days when only younger people cared about sustainability matters, like protecting the environment and avoiding wasting resources. And as we spend most of our time at home, in our own four walls, this is precisely where we should start to take action and promote sustainability and green thinking. A central place here is the kitchen. Whereas, cheap was once almost the only criterion for furnishing a kitchen, many have now given way to realising there is no way round protecting the environment, conserving nature and using resources sparingly.


Now this doesn't mean getting rid of all plastic kitchen utensils in your possession – fish slices, cooking spoons, salad servers and the like – straight away, it's only about furnishing a new kitchen. And that's where it pays to think sustainably and go for products which contain no harmful substances, are manufactured wherever possible without emitting much CO2 and from materials certified as being sustainable. This is not only good for the environment and your health. Long term, it's also good for your purse or wallet. Because sustainably produced items often last longer than plastic products, which quickly become brittle and also permanently lose minute particles that get into the environment, so-called microplastics. Electrical appliances of any size will be energy-efficient in a sustainable kitchen, and if you are also mindful when buying food, storing it and cleaning the kitchen, you will be meeting all the key criteria that go into creating a sustainable kitchen.


The benefits are obvious. We will be protecting the environment, conserving resources and benefiting our health while also saving money in the long term.

Information on the subject of sustainability at Nolte Küchen

For Nolte Küchen, sustainability is not just a popular trend that generates attention – on the contrary. As a company, we attach importance to manufacturing our products in an environmentally and climate-friendly way and to conserving nature and resources wherever possible. People are also a central part of our philosophy. For us, treating employees and suppliers with respect belongs to the idea of sustainability just as much as environmental awareness.

Sustainable commitment

Ninety-nine per cent of the wood we process comes from certified sources involving the shortest possible transportation distances. Since January 2021, we have been sourcing our green electricity from renewable energy sources. We get over 99 per cent of the heat we need from burning offcut wood. Our offices and production facilities are illuminated by LED lighting, and 50 per cent of the material that goes into making the chipboard used in production is recycled wood. On top of this, we save packaging material wherever possible and compensate for the share of our CO2 emissions that unfortunately remains unavoidable by giving support to an ecological project in Uruguay.

And last but not least, we encourage our staff to come to work by bicycle whenever they can. Home working is also a central part of our sustainability strategy. We hold meetings online. Our members of staff are the company's most valuable asset, which is why Nolte Küchen places utmost priority on occupational health and safety, equal opportunities, corporate justice and human rights.

We are a climate-neutral company with the long-term objective of manufacturing our products without any impact on climate.

If you want to find out more about Nolte Küchen's commitment to sustainability, click here to download the Sustainability Report for 2022.

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