‘The Essential Kitchen’ with Kevin Henry: Just How Green is an All-Glass Kitchen

At a recent design show in Los Angeles this past June, 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, counter

At a recent design show in Los Angeles this past June, 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, counter top and toe kick 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 populous at large, that glass, in most cases, is 100 percent 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 has 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 manufacturer glass, 2,750° F 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 pollution into the atmosphere, like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, as well as toxic particulates made of metals, chemicals, acids and dust, 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-foot print when transporting 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 is the executive VP of Bazzeo LLC as well as a writer, speaker and environmental activist. Henry can be reached at kevin@bazzeo.com or you can read his blog at www.theessentialkitchen.blogspot.com)