Greening your bathroom can be easy, fun, and with the right choices, will lower your utility bills, and keep you healthier. Using water-saving toilets, shower heads, faucets, and fixing any existing leaks in fixtures and pipes, make the biggest difference when greening your bathroom. Eco-saving fixtures have come a long way, and there are a lot of choices that look the same as the traditional fixtures for about the same price.
According to the EPA, a pre-1992 toilet uses up to 3.5 gallons per flush. Toilets account for about 30% of the indoor household water used per year. Replacing a traditional or older toilet with a high-efficiency one like a low-flow toilet, a dual-flush toilet, or a composting toilet, could save up to two billion gallons of water per day across the U.S. Faucets account for more than 15% of indoor residential water and use more than one trillion gallons of water across the U.S. each year. Twist on a WaterSense labeled aerator onto an existing faucet and/or showerhead (if unable to replace them) which can cost as little as a few dollars. If every household in the United States installed a WaterSense labeled bathroom sink faucet or faucet accessories, more than $350 million in water utility bills and more than sixty billion gallons of water annually could be saved. In addition, U.S. homes could avoid about $600 million in energy costs for heating water. To break it down further, a family of four could save over $150 in utility costs annually by replacing three fixtures: toilet, faucet and shower head.
Using eco-friendly fixtures reduces demands on water heaters, meaning that households will also save energy. Tankless water heaters (also called instantaneous, continuous flow, inline, flash, on-demand or instant-on water heaters) are also available and gaining popularity. These water heaters instantly heat water as it flows through the device, and do not retain any water internally except for what is in the heat exchanger coil.
Increasingly, solar powered water heaters are being used. Their solar collectors are installed outside dwellings, typically on the roof, walls or nearby, and the potable hot water storage tank is typically a pre-existing or new conventional water heater, or a water heater specifically designed for solar thermal.
Greywater is generated from laundry, dishwasher, sinks, showers and bathing. Treated correctly, greywater can be recycled on-site for uses such as irrigation and other applications, and used for flushing toilets.
Filtered water on showers or a home water system can remove chlorine, lead, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals. Also, decreasing plastic bottled water usage is better for you and for the environment. Valuable resources like oil are used to produce plastic and being non-biodegradable, millions of plastic bottles end up in landfills. Chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) leach into the bloodstream and can cause a myriad of health problems,
Good ventilation systems like fans can provide clean air by removing odor, moisture and mold spores. Energy-star rated windows that can be opened at least 30% also ventilate bathrooms.
Other easy ways to green your bathroom include:
- Take shorter showers;
- Turn off the faucet while brushing teeth;
- Use garbage cans for refuse, not toilets;
- Use non-toxic cleaners and soaps, candles and other personal care items;
- Use reusable cleaning products (washable cleaning pads/towels) instead of disposable (like paper towels);
- Purchase recycled paper products saves trees;
- Consider natural fibers/towels/linens (like hemp and organic cotton);
- Purchase No VOC shower curtains (Volatile Organic Compounds);
- Investigate natural flooring like Linoleum and Cork;
- Use No VOC paint (Volatile Organic Compounds);
- Look for Recycled glass, composite terrazzo or other recycled countertop materials and wall tiles (ceramic or porcelain);
- Be creative with re-claimed furniture, which can make great pedestals for sinks- avoid cabinets made from particle board containing formaldehyde;
- Use antiques (reuse, recycle mirrors, vanities, etc.);
- Use non-toxic caulks and adhesives- safe, green alternative to regular toxic caulking and adhesives;
- Utilize skylights/natural lighting to reduce need for electricity;
- Use compact fluorescent lighting and LED lighting produce light more efficiently and are closer to the color of daylight;
- Refurbish existing sink, tub or cabinets instead of buying new ;
- Donate items like fixtures, toilets, bathtubs, sinks, cabinets (to pay forward the reuse, reduce, and recycle cycle).
Doing something good for you, + good for the environment, + saves you money = peace of mind.
Green means clean and it can be beautiful.
Robin Motzer, Allied Member ASID is an award-winning Interior Designer. She has been greening and creating healthier homes, offices, hospitality and healthcare interiors for over 23 years. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers. www.robinmotzerdesigns.com Rmotzerdesigns@comcast.net