Building & Renovating

5 Ways to Turn the Kitchen Into An Eco-Friendly Space

Little steps and smarter choices can create a big impact in your home

Original Article: Sunshine Selga Funa Photography: Dairy Darilag Styling: Dagny Madamba

There's no denying that intense pollution and climate change have affected our country. From unexpected flash floods and stronger typhoons to the unpredictable weather and unbearable heat, these events somehow serve as reminders that we need to make better choices and care for the environment. As with any other endeavor, the first step begins at home.

Interior designer and Junk Not! founder Willie Garcia began her journey toward eco-friendly and sustainable living by creating recycled decor and home pieces. To spread the message about her advocacy, she made it a point to inject these elements and other recycled finishes into her projects. Using recycled materials, Junk Not! was able to create furnishings like headboards made of dried water hyacinth, lamps from old bottles, and even pillow covers made of used foil packs.

If you're ready to begin your journey toward a better home, you can start in the kitchen. Here are design choices and clever ideas to keep in mind:

1. Use scrap wood as material for your prep table or breakfast nook.

To help her friend achieve the eco-friendly household she wanted, Willie made sure to add environmentally friendly finishes in this cooking corner. The kitchen may look like an ordinary modern space, but if you look closely—you would see the difference.

The table that serves as extra prep area or breakfast nook highlights scrap wood. To accomplish the same, you might have to tap the expertise of professionals or a trusted carpenter to build the piece for you. You can source for scrap wood from sash factories along the Silang-Tagaytay Road or look for reclaimed wood in Dapitan Street, Manila.

2. Choose low-VOC topcoat varnish and paint.

To create the sliding pantry door, Willie also worked with scrap wood. She then used low-VOC topcoat varnish to complete the captivating, shiny look. Low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) items and materials aren't harmful to the environment and to your health as well.

RL Tip: It's important to check if you're buying a low-VOC paint or not. VOCs are known to cause pollution and health problems like headache and difficulty in breathing.

3. Be creative when it comes to recycling.

Notice something different about the kitchen cabinets? To spruce up the cabinet doors and to keep up with the theme, the designer worked with old newspapers.

Willie created a collage using the pages and coated the doors using water-based polyurethane coat—a material that doesn't emit harmful fumes. This design idea is easy to accomplish and proves that even the simplest of techniques can help you add an eco-friendly touch.

4. Start small with household accessories and must-haves.

You don't need to feel pressured just to be able to help the environment. Transform your space slowly but surely by choosing items made of recycled materials. 

Junk Not! has an array of must-haves that you can use in the dining area and kitchen like woven placemats made using foil packs, napkin holders featuring eco-tire wire, and even charming decor like the florets made of old magazines and wire. Simply put these in a vase and you have a centerpiece!

5. Don't forget the little things.

Do you have mason jars and bottles gathering dust inside the cabinet? Bring these out and repurpose them in your kitchen. You can craft a liquid soap dispenser using a mason jar or turn two or three jars into receptacles for ingredients and other supplies. Old bottles can be cleaned and filled with flowers, too!

Do you have materials and items that you believe can be recycled? Get in touch with Junk Not! and interior designer Willie Garcia through e-mail at junknotinc[at] For more details about Junk Not! and their projects, follow them on Facebook.

Read the original article in the November 2013 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to for more details.

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