Shop more sustainably - Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens
As part of the 'shop more sustainably' series, I wanted to find out more about how undertaking, arguably one of the largest home renovation projects, can also be something that can be approached more sustainably.
We spend a huge amount of time in our kitchen spaces, and over the last few years the trend has shifted to more open plan styles, as well as a trend for a more individual décor. With extensions and renovations now making kitchen spaces much larger, and more connected with garden spaces. Kitchens are now considered the hub of the home, even before we needed to navigate working from home.
With this is mind, I asked Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens about their take on sustainability. and the trends they are seeing with their latest kitchen designs.
Image source: Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens - Dark blue shaker with oak island
"it is important to be more mindful of global resources, and only buy things that are made well and made thoughtfully and will last"- Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens
What is sustainability to Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens?
Sustainability is a core part of who we are at Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens and has been since the business was founded in 2008.
As a team, we’re all passionate about reducing our impact on the environment. We have a group of “sustainability champions” within the business, whose priority is to look for how we can improve our eco credentials, whether that’s by improving the products and services we offer, or by changing the way we operate as a business.
What trends are you seeing in Kitchens following the pandemic?
We have seen a change in the way people are shopping and the way they are cooking over the last 18 months, which has had an impact on what they are looking for in their new kitchen designs.
Firstly, people are shopping less frequently. Many of our clients are trying to shop just once a week, embracing meal planning means they make a considered shopping list to support this. The result is they are shopping more economically, but it also means they are looking for good kitchen storage to keep fresh food for longer. Bulk buying has become much more mainstream so storage for bulk items and larger amounts of dry goods has also become important. As a result, larders have become a must-have for our clients’ dream kitchens.
Image source: Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens - Larder
We’re also seeing a greater demand for drawer storage, which alongside a larder, is a really effective storage solution and arguably more practical than straightforward cupboards. Drawers help you get right to the back of a cupboard space, as well as not requiring you to bend down to access the space. The drawers we incorporate into our kitchen designs are super solid and are built to last. The fittings we use can hold up to 70kg in a single drawer and come with a lifetime warranty, so there’s no messing around. They are a brilliant storage solution and can be fully loaded up.
There has also been a move towards more producing more homegrown food during the pandemic and as a result, people need space for preserved food. Homemade jams, marmalades and pickles have become more popular and clients are wanting kitchen spaces
to store the additional equipment needed for home preserving. They also want nice spaces, such as open shelving, to proudly show off their home produce! We’re finding that open shelving is also popular with people storing jars of bulk bought dry goods and going plastic-free in the process.
Image source: Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens - Plastic free, dry goods
The effect of the pandemic is also that people are cooking more at home than they have been for some years. There’s a demand for appliances that will help them make tastier food, such as slow cookers and ice cream makers, and a greater demand for worktop space to accommodate these. The knock-on effect of cooking more and eating at home more is that there is also a greater demand for dishwashers!
We’re also seeing an increased demand for sustainable bathrooms - people are keen to invest in their homes, having spent a lot of time in them over the last 18 months. They have a good idea of what they do and don’t want, to future proof their homes.
The pandemic has also grown our business and our geographical reach. We are now supplying kitchens across the UK to customers who are keen to have a thoughtfully-designed and sustainable kitchen, made from high-quality materials. For those customers who are a considerable distance from Sheffield, we supply a kitchen along with guidance on how to install it so that all they need to do is source an experienced kitchen fitter.
What's the best way to determine if something is made sustainably or not?
Sustainability is complex. There are many different layers to it. If it was more of a cut and dried thing, it would make things a lot easier to be sustainable!
As a business, we consider several factors when trying to determine if something is made sustainably or not. We consider if something is high quality, durable and made to last. We also look at the raw materials it has been made from, whether these are sustainable, how much of the content is recycled. We also consider whether the manufacturing process was sustainable (eg using green energy, low waste etc).
Another aspect of sustainability is the mileage something has travelled to reach you. A product might be sustainably manufactured using 100% recycled materials, but if it has flown halfway around the world to reach you, then you have to question whether this is sustainable or not.
Image source: Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens - Choosing Materials
How do you aim to be sustainable in your business?
There are three strands to our approach to sustainability at Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens.
Firstly, the materials that we create our kitchens, bathrooms and other living spaces from, are either high recycled content, reclaimed or sustainably sourced. Many of our kitchens have had a previous life, whether it’s the solid oak cabinet door fronts that were originally railway wagons, open shelving that had a previous life as a school lab bench (complete with graffiti) or worktops made from glass bottle shards, or recycled post-industrial plastics set in a solid resin.
Secondly, we design and build our living spaces to last. All our kitchens and bathrooms are solid, high quality and designed to meet the needs of the individuals using them. Each design is completely bespoke, so that it is highly functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. A long-lasting kitchen is a more sustainable one, and we support our clients to maintain their space by offering a strong aftercare service. We want them to love their spaces for many years, so they don’t end up in landfill in a short space of time. We’re proud to have won the Houzz Best of Service award for the last three years running.
Lastly, our approach to sustainability extends beyond the way we craft living spaces to include our company culture. Our business practices promote socially-responsible supply chains and support the local economy, championing independents and other sustainable businesses, to keep money local and transport miles low. We use green electricity, bank ethically and recycle wherever possible within the business. More than 80% of our fleet is electric and we are aiming to be fully electric in the next 12 months. We are supporters of active travel, encouraging our team to cycle or walk to work. We nurture our supportive, friendly and close-knit team and encourage flexible and responsible working practices. We’re proud to have just celebrated our first 12 months as a Living Wage employer.
Image source: Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens - Bamboo Shelving and Worktop
If you're new to sustainability, where should people start?
That’s a tricky question! There are so many places you could start, but it’s probably easiest to start with something that’s close to your heart - if you feel passionate about it then you’re more likely to make progress. Starting small is also important - it has to be achievable to encourage you for your actions.
Recycling is a good place to start. Some people start by reducing the amount of plastic they use, whether that’s by using a milkman to deliver glass bottles of milk or trying to avoid buying products with plastic packaging. Maybe adopting a refillable drinks bottle rather than buying drinks in single-use packaging. Or perhaps people could start by cutting down on food waste. Food waste accounts for around one-sixth of all household waste in the UK. By adopting more considered behaviour, and more planning, I am confident that this could be cut drastically, reducing landfill and waste manufacturing resources.
Image source: Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens - integrated recycling
What single thing can people do to be more sustainable in their home?
I think it is important to be more mindful of global resources, and only buy things that are made well and made thoughtfully and will last.
Any further reading or resources you would like to share - anything you'd like to add. (perhaps with a focus on a few materials here ?
On my list to read is “How Bad are Bananas?” by Mike Berners Lee - a few of the team have said it is essential reading. It is a brilliant and entertaining overview of the comparative carbon footprints. It covers a wide variety of things, from boiling a litre of water, through having a child, to taking out a mortgage. From what I understand, it ties in with my earlier comments about sustainability being incredibly complex and nuanced - and maybe sometimes surprising too.
We recently compiled a guide to the range of sustainable materials we offer clients for their kitchen and bathroom designs. It’s a really useful overview of their comparative eco-credentials and shows some great examples of how they can be used effectively in your home.
You can download a copy here: https://ssk.uk.com/download-our-materials-guide-pdf/
There are some great materials available, from recycled paper and recycled glass to recycled plastics. In the 14 years we have been creating living spaces, there have been massive developments in sustainable materials. There is so much more available now to consumers and it would be a shame not to take advantage of all these innovations. One of our favourites has to be the reclaimed timber hardwoods that we have created some stunning kitchens from over the years. It always thrills me to watch how we take a heavily graffitied piece of school lab bench, complete with chewing gum and sand it all back to show the rich iroko woodgrain below and finish it with oil to protect it for its new life as a worktop or similar.