By Kim Robson
When you want to start living a more “green” lifestyle, knowing where to start often can be difficult. Your bathroom is one of the most used parts of the house, and it’s also a great place to begin your green-living campaign.
For starters, an obvious choice is to purchase a newer model toilet and showerhead. Toilets alone can represent up to 30% of a household’s water consumption. Low-flow fixtures got a bad reputation when they first were introduced. The original 1.6 gpf toilets didn’t fully flush or left “skid-marks,” and people hated the sometimes mandatory low-flow showerheads so much that even Seinfeld devoted an episode to the subject. Today, however, the technology has improved to the degree that I would challenge anyone to tell the difference.
Water consumption should always be a concern. Fix leaky faucets and “running” toilets as soon as possible. Most people have no idea how much time they spend in the shower. Invariably, it’s more than they imagine. Try placing a kitchen timer on the bathroom countertop. Set it for the amount of time you think you’ll spend in the shower, and see if it doesn’t go off before you get out. You may be surprised. Another easy trick is to place a bucket in the shower with you so you can water your plants with whatever you catch. And, of course, you should always turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
We’ve already discussed green cleaning products on this site. Spray the all-purpose cleaner or mold fighter liberally around the bathroom. Remember to keep it well ventilated. Both will help discourage mold growth and result in less cleaning for you in the long run. Natural light also creates a clean, bright environment without using energy.
Make sure your pipes are well insulated. A great deal of heat energy is lost warming up cold pipes. Better yet, consider installing an on-demand hot water system. Instead of keeping a big tank of water hot 24 hours a day, much of which time you may not be home or using it, “inline” water heating systems heat only the water being used, eliminating the wait for running water to heat. You can even customize the system to the exact temperature you prefer.
You should have compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout your home already, but in the bathroom, there are so many opportunities to go further. Consider recycled toilet paper. I know you’re imagining something about as coarse as burlap, but today’s recycled toilet paper is nearly indistinguishable from “virgin” paper. If every household replaced just one roll of virgin toilet paper with 100% recycled toilet paper, we could save nearly half a million trees. Toilet paper made of recycled components could help you save money as well as the planet. Another easy fix is to make your next shower curtain one made from renewable resources like linen or hemp. Avoid chemical-laden personal cleaning products, too. Personally, I love Dr. Bronner’s All-One Castile Soap. It’s good for just about everything.
Finally, if you happen to be building or remodeling your home, this is the perfect time to make your bathroom green from the ground up. Investing in a bathroom remodel brings one of the best returns on your home’s value for your dollar. Radiant floor heating is remarkably efficient and will save money. Renewable materials like recycled wrought iron and chalkboard, renewable bamboo, reclaimed wood, wood from felled trees, and recycled glass tiles are now quite common. Antique light fixtures and hardware look fantastic in bathrooms. So do claw-foot bathtubs. Old vanities and cabinets can be given a new lease on life with resurfacing and varnish or paint.
An environmentally conscious household should start by taking a hard look at the bathroom. You could be well on your way to living more green just by following any of these tips!