1. Salvage nontraditional items for new kitchen storage.
Reuse is the gold standard for green remodeling, and a little creativity goes a long way. Banks of old school lockers or lab cabinets, for example, are a hot salvage item for retro-flavored kitchen storage.
2. Reuse stuff from your old kitchen.
Take a hard look to see if there are things you can keep—appliances, cabinets, hardware, faucets, and sinks are all candidates for reuse or refurb rather than replacement. A caveat: Don't keep any faucet purchased before 1997, because it's likely to contain some lead. And dispense with any appliances more than 10 years old. Energy Star appliances are leaps and bounds ahead of their ancestors in terms of energy-efficiency.
3. Install an under-the-counter water purifier.
These have about 10 times the filtering capacity of a faucet-mounted purifier. A model with a top-quality activated carbon filter will remove heavy metals, bacteria, and pesticides—not to mention odors and bad tastes. Expect to pay $150 to $200 for an activated charcoal purifier with a replaceable cartridge, which is peanuts compared with the total remodel and easy to do while the project is under way.
4. Don't forget energy-efficient lighting.
Fluorescent and compact fluorescent lamps use up to 75% less energy than comparable incandescent lamps. In fact, according to EnergyStar.gov, a single CFL bulb will save $30 to $40 during its expected lifespan of 10,000 hours. But make sure you keep task areas well-lit: Consider efficient halogen and LED lighting sources anywhere you're planning to chop veggies or measure ingredients. Or plan a skylight overhead--the sun's still free.
5. Make recycling easy.
Most cabinet manufacturers offer options for lower cabinets that include pull-out recycling bins to keep contents organized and out of sight. You can even get surface-mounted bins to go underneath holes in countertops. Just sweep food scraps right in.
6. Buy counter-depth Energy Star refrigerator instead of a standard-depth model.
Counter-depth fridges fit flush with cabinet fronts instead of jutting out five or six inches into the kitchen. It's a way to carve out extra floor space, get a sleek built-in look, and save energy, since you’re cooling less space. And an Energy Star option adds efficiency over older models. You likely won't even notice the slight difference in capacity, although you'll pay a few hundred dollars more.
Make your decision up front, though, because counter-depth appliances often aren't standard width. You'll need to plan your cabinets accordingly.
And by the way—models featuring the freezer on top use 10% to 25% less energy than a same-sized model with a side-by-side configuration.