5 Steps to a Green Bathroom
Is a green bathroom realistic? Bathrooms provide plenty of opportunities to wreak havoc on the environment, and not just in the olfactory sense. Think about it: gallons upon gallons of water are flushed down your toilet, shower and sink drains. Even the cleaning products and toiletries you use likely contain unsavory ingredients and come in non-recyclable containers-not to mention that you go through rolls of toilet paper like it’s going out of style.
It’s not necessary to renovate your entire bathroom, but consider incorporating at least one of these changes to make your bathroom more green (aside from buying recycled TP):
1. Reduce your water use. If your house was built after 1995, your toilet is likely a low-flow model. However, if your house is older and the bathroom hasn’t been renovated recently, consider replacing that old clunker with a streamlined, water-conserving model. Your shower and sink require less expensive fixes; simply install a low-flow shower head and a low-flow faucet aerator. You may miss that strong water pressure, but you will enjoy the savings on your water bill.
2. Ventilate. A properly ventilated bathroom maintains good indoor air quality and prevents the growth of mold. Natural ventilation is the best, but not every bathroom has a window. Install an Energy Star-rated exhaust fan to draw humid air out of your bathroom. Your fan should move one cubic foot of air each minute per one square foot of space in the room; check the label. If you are willing to spend a little extra, buy an exhaust fan with an occupancy sensor, humidistat or timer to save energy when the bathroom is not in use.
3. Conserve heat. Uninsulated pipes are kind of like radiators, so why would you waste all that heat and energy under your bathroom sink? Make sure that your bathroom pipes are insulated, and especially around the elbow, or 90 degree bend. Pipe insulation is ridiculously cheap and even an amateur can install it. Speaking of hot water, if it’s time to replace your water heater, consider installing a tankless water heater. Although they cost more up front, you’ll save more on energy in the long run. If it’s not in the budget, take the time to compare other water heaters.
4. Repeat after me: low-VOC. Bathrooms are usually pretty small spaces, so using paints, caulks and sealants that off-gas Volatile Organic Compounds just doesn’t sound like a good idea. Purchase materials that indicate they are low-VOC. Try Titebond Kitchen & Bath Sealant or Tub & Tile Caulk from Green Depot. While you’re at it, replace that moldy PVC shower curtain with an organic one made of hemp or cotton. Your nose will thank you.
5. Rethink your tile. Ceramic tile is the go-to choice for bathrooms. It’s on the floor, it’s on the walls, but it’s not the most environmentally friendly option. Instead, consider ceramic tile alternatives such as recycled glass tiles-they are not only eco-friendly but very stylish-like those from Bedrock Industries. If you prefer the look of natural stone, consider Crossville’s EcoCycle line, which contain 40% recycled ceramic content and provide a warm and rustic look. Opt for a simple, low-maintenance concrete floor over tile’s dirt-trapping grout lines. Add texture and color by acid-staining your concrete.