People use–and waste–more water in the bathroom than in any other room in the house. Add all that water use with polluting soaps and shampoos, the energy used to heat the water, and more–and your bathroom could be doing damage to the environment.
But it doesn't have to be that way. There are many things you can do to bring a little green into your bathroom. Here are just a few.
Energy-efficient light bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are 90% more efficient than incandescents. Incandescent bulbs lose most of their energy as heat–which makes them a fire hazard as well.
The best lighting for a bathroom is bright enough to let you shave or apply makeup without squinting, but soft enough to look flattering while you do it. Choose bright white energy-saver bulbs, and soften the light by hanging them at eye level on either side of the mirror or putting them behind frosted glass.
Dual-flush toilets. Most new toilets use about seven or eight litres of water every time you flush. Older toilets use 9-12 litres. However, you don't need this much water to flush a toilet.
If you want to save water, replace your toilet with a dual-flush model. Dual-flush toilets have one flush for water waste, and another for solids. Naturally, you need less water to flush water waste.
Faucets that conserve water. Leaky faucets waste millions of litres of water per year, and cost you money as well. To prevent leaks in your bathroom taps, replace your old fixtures with self-closing taps that shut off the water as soon as you stop pressing a button. This ensures your water isn't left on while you brush your teeth or shave, and it keeps your faucet from leaking.
Think green in the shower. We waste a great deal of water in the shower–plus massive amounts of energy used to heat the water we waste. If you want to save water and save the planet at the same time, consider installing a low-flow showerhead or an air shower.
A typical showerhead delivers 25 litres of water per minute, while a low-flow showerhead delivers only 6 to 15. Cut your shower time in half and use a low-flow showerhead, and you'll save a great deal of water.
If you really want to save water, however, consider an air shower. An air shower device can be attached to your existing showerhead. It pumps each water droplet full of air. This makes each water droplet bigger, so it feels just as wet and strong as a typical showerhead. Studies show that air showers can cut your water use by an additional 30%.
Recycled tiles. If you're redesigning your bathroom from scratch, choose recycled materials such as reclaimed glass tiles. Glass is completely water-resistant, making it a great choice for bathroom walls, flooring, and countertops.
Choosing glass makes good ecological sense as well. Each glass bottle recycled saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for about four hours. In addition, glass accounts for about 6% of all landfill waste and takes over a million years to break down.
Heat your water efficiently. Most people wait until their water heater breaks down to buy a new one. This puts you in the position of having to find one quickly, without the luxury of shopping around. But if you take your time in finding the right water heater, it could pay off in the long run.
The most common type of water heater is a storage heater: a big storage tank that's constantly heated. Because it's always kept warm, this type of heater loses energy even when it isn't used. However, there are some new models that are designed to minimize standing heat loss.
If you want a truly efficient hot water heater, however, look for a tankless heater or a solar heater. A tankless heater passes water pipes directly through the boiler, while a solar heater uses the sun's energy to heat water. Both of these will cost more to install, but they will cost less to run.
Use nontoxic shampoos and soaps. Many ordinary soaps and shampoos contain chemicals that could put your health at risk. There are many carcinogenic chemicals in deodorants, soaps, shampoos, and body sprays. Some of these persist in the environment, build up in the food chain, and return to haunt us long after they've gone down the drain.
Be skeptical of products labeled “natural;” under current marketing legislation in the U.K., only 1% of a product needs to be naturally derived in order to use the label. Look for soaps and shampoos that don't use artificial fragrances–essential oils are fine, however. Avoid mineral oil, which is just another name for petroleum oil. In addition, choose soaps and shampoos that use minimal, biodegradable packaging.
Making your bathroom more eco-friendly doesn't have to be a daunting task. Making a change in the soaps you use, limiting your time in the shower, and installing water-efficient fixtures can make a big difference. Whether you plan a few simple changes or a big overhaul, a greener bathroom is within your reach.