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Choose Green, When Renovating Your Kitchen or Bathroom

May 7, 2019

Written by: Cassandra Nordell MacLean, William Standen Co.

A version of this appeared in the London Free Press


We spend about 90% of our time indoors. Studies suggest that our interior space can drastically affect our overall wellbeing. Not only from the colour of your space, the texture of the materials you touch, but most importantly – the indoor air quality inside of your home.  Your home is an extension of you. Break free from some of the toxic home products, and design your best life.

You may not be thinking about environmentally friendly products for your home, but it is of the upmost importance.  Many things in your home can cause air quality problems.  According to the Canadian Lung Association website “Canadians spend 90% of their time indoors. Your home should be safe and comforting, not a place that makes you sick. People can have air quality problems in any kind of home, new or old.”

Year after year my kitchen projects have taken home first place design awards in the Green category in All Ontario competitions. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. Every component in these projects had to be green, and have the backup certifications to prove it.

Here are some of my top suggestions for products to create a space that is safe for you, and the environment, as well as the top contenders to look out for.

The Top Contenders


The Canadian Lung Association website says: “Pressed wood cupboards contain formaldehyde and can cause illness or irritation.”

Formaldehyde is a proven carcinogen. A typical cabinet can off-gas 70 parts per million formaldehyde. The good news is that a better option does exist. For example, William Standen Co. custom cabinetry meets .02 compliance for the strictest indoor air regulations, which is referred to as CARB 2 compliant.

Do not assume that because a salesperson told you that their cabinetry is “eco-friendly” that it actually is. The only way for the cabinetry to be CARB compliant is for the pressed wood, plywood, interior, adhesives and all components to be certified for indoor air quality. Not just one component such as a low VOC finish. To truly be environmentally friendly, a cabinet must jump through several hoops so to speak due to its many components.


Vinyl, Laminate and even hardwoods can contain chemicals that can off-gas into your interior space. These chemicals are found in the finish used on the floor, in the actual material, as well as in the adhesives used in manufacturing.

As with cabinetry, look for the CARB compliant logo and certification as well as an FSC logo on the actual flooring (not just the packaging) to ensure that it was sustainably harvested.


Granite can contain radon. As per the Health Canada website, Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed naturally by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water.

Choose quartz instead as most are certified with GreenGuard for indoor air. Cambria Quartz, for example, is mined within Canada. The natural quartz stone is then ground and processed, making this material twice as strong as granite, and safe for indoor air. Even better, it can’t harbour bacteria unlike granite and is virtually maintenance free.

Wall Paint

Look for zero VOC paints. Water-based paints will also help with clean up and not having to use harsh chemicals when cleaning up.


Wall-to-wall carpeting used to be thought of as an ideal status symbol from the 1950s. Today many consumers are choosing to forgo carpet all together for the purpose of having an easier to clean surface, which does not harbour bacteria, dust and pet hair. When it comes to chemicals, many carpets can possess an abundance of them. My advice; choose a CARB compliant hardwood instead.

My favourite eco-friendly products:

  1. Custom, Canadian made furniture with performance fabrics. It is now possible to have your sofas and chairs made with durable, stain resistant, pet and kid safe fabrics, without adding chemicals to them! This is a big WIN for the planet and our health.
  2. Cambria quartz for countertops, shower surrounds and even table tops.
  3. Kohler cast iron sinks. They’re made from over 80% recycled materials and last for life!
  4. William Standen Co. custom cabinetry that exceeds all indoor air regulations.
  5. Benjamin Moore Natura paint
  6. Dacor kitchen appliances – some of the steel is recycled and most are Energy Star certified.
  7. Recycled floor and wall tiles or Canadian made, glass tiles. They are made from recycled material yet boast the latest colours and styles.
  8. Engineered hardwood flooring that meets indoor air regulation certifications and is FSC certified
  9. Eco-conscious home cleaning products that do not leave a chemical residue on your surfaces for you, your children or your pets to absorb.

Cassandra Nordell is the Co-Founder of William Standen Co. & Nordell Homes, based in Sarnia. Cassandra is an award-winning kitchen & bath designer. Her design work has been featured on HGTV Canada as well as been published in countless magazines, both international and domestic. For more information on working with Cassandra & her team visit