Are you looking for ways to make your life and your home more environmentally friendly? One room that might not get much attention in your efforts to be more eco-friendly is designing a sustainable bathroom.
When we think of pollution or environmental harm, the bathroom might not be the first place that comes to mind. However, several traditional bathroom designs, products, and practices can have a significant environmental footprint.
- Water usage: Traditional showerheads, toilets, and faucets can be significant water wasters. Older toilets might use up to 6 gallons per flush compared to modern low-flow toilets which use just 1.28 gallons or less.
- Non-Biodegradable Products: Many personal care items like plastic toothbrushes, razors, and synthetic sponges take hundreds of years to break down in landfills.
- Energy Consumption: Traditional water heaters, especially those that are outdated, can be energy hogs. Heating water is often one of the primary energy costs in homes.
- Non-Sustainable Materials: Materials like virgin plastic containers, non-recycled tiles, and fixtures made from non-renewable resources contribute to excessive resource extraction and environmental degradation.
Sustainable Bathroom Design
While our bathrooms may seem benign, the cumulative impact of traditional bathroom habits and products can be substantial. Thankfully, as awareness grows, more sustainable alternatives are becoming available, offering eco-friendly ways to minimize these environmental effects.
1. Shower Instead of Bath
Let’s start with something very practical and very easy to do, decide between taking a bath or a shower. On average, a bath filled to the top of the tub will use about 75 gallons of water. A shower, by contrast, only uses about 25 gallons of water. That’s a huge difference, and the choice may seem obvious.
However, if you don’t fill the tub all the way up and you share the tub water with your kids or spouse, then you may find this an eco-friendly method. You might not have to give up baths just to be conservative with your water usage.
2. Low-Flow Fixtures
One of the most impactful ways to save water in bathrooms is by introducing low-flow fixtures. Here’s what you need to know about them:
Low-flow toilets are designed to use less water per flush compared to traditional toilets. They utilize advanced technology, like dual flush systems, to reduce the amount of water needed.
These are taps designed to reduce the flow rate of water, without compromising on the user’s experience. They often incorporate aerators that mix air with the water, resulting in a steady, full-feeling flow but with less water.
Low-flow showerheads that are engineered to release water more efficiently ensure a satisfactory shower experience but with reduced water usage. Like low-flow faucets, many incorporate aerators or have unique spray patterns that maximize the sensation of water flow while actually using less.
A traditional showerhead can use 5 gallons of water per minute or more, while a low-flow version might use only 2 gallons or less. Over time, this difference accumulates, leading to massive savings in water and energy, especially if the water is heated.
3. Use Long-Lasting Materials
If you want to create a sustainable bathroom, keep in mind how long the materials you use will last. That will mean you will spend less on materials over time and your bathroom will require fewer resources to stay in great shape.
Sustainability often means working with what you have and making it last for a long time, so keep that in mind as you plan your bathroom design and renovation.
Choose products that are made from stone or brass that will resist water damage and mold corrosion and will still look great years down the road. Make sure you take good care of them, ensuring proper upkeep and cleaning on a regular basis.
You can have professional cleaners tidy your bathroom and other spaces to extend their lifespan as well. Professional cleaning can make a big difference in whether you catch mold growth early on or not.
You could also look at placing Marmoleum flooring in your bathroom. An eco-friendly choice known for its durability and vibrant design options, Marmoleum flooring is made from natural ingredients. It’s a sustainable and stylish flooring solution for homes and businesses alike.
Incorporating recycled and reclaimed materials is also a great step towards a more eco-friendly space. Here are a few ideas:
- Recycled Tiles: Recycled tiles are made from previously used materials like glass, ceramics, or even previously used tiles. By choosing them, you reduce the need for new raw materials and energy-intensive production processes. Look for tiles that have a high percentage of post-consumer or post-industrial content.
- Reclaimed Wood: Reclaimed wood is repurposed from old structures, barns, or even wine barrels. It’s a way of giving a second life to wood, reducing the demand for new lumber and thus saving trees. Ensure the wood has been treated to be resistant to moisture, especially for bathroom use.
- Recycled Glass Countertops: These countertops are made from shards of recycled glass bound together, often with a non-toxic resin or cement. Check the source of the glass – some manufacturers use post-consumer bottles, while others may use industrial waste.
- Natural Linoleum Flooring: Unlike vinyl, which is a petroleum-based product, natural linoleum is made from linseed oil, pine rosin, and other renewable resources. Ensure you’re getting authentic, natural linoleum and not its synthetic counterpart.
- Bamboo Accessories: Bamboo is a fast-growing grass, making it a highly renewable resource. It’s sturdy, durable, and naturally resistant to moisture. Opt for bamboo that’s sustainably harvested. Look for certifications like the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council).
4. Reuse and Recycle
Not everything in your bathroom needs to be made from newly sourced materials. You can take used construction materials from discount suppliers to minimize your environmental impact.
This means fewer resources will be needed to construct your bathroom, and many previously used construction materials will hold up well, particularly stone, steel aluminum, granite, and wood.
If they have been cared for and well maintained, they can be repurposed to make beautiful bathroom fixtures and surfaces. If you have unused PVC pipes lying around or wood stored up in your garage, you may be able to repurpose these to make fittings, pipe works, and surfaces in the bathroom.
A nice finish or a simple paint job can reinvigorate these items and make them much more beautiful than they were before, extending their lifespan and helping you stay sustainable.
There are other ways to reuse and recycle to create a sustainable bathroom, such as:
- Repurpose old containers such as cosmetic jars or glass bottles which could hold bath salts or become decorative vases for small plants.
- Recycle bathroom products by checking the bottom of your plastic products for information. Some brands use recyclable materials for their toothpaste tubes. If not, there are specialized recycling programs that accept these.
- Many health and eco-friendly stores offer shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, and even lotions in bulk. Bring your containers and refill them as needed.
5. Use Antique and Vintage Items
Antique doesn’t have to mean trash, and many antique stores will have beautiful items that might go well in your bathroom. Look for statement pieces, like vintage tubs, antique sinks, faucets, and more that might be compatible with your bathroom.
You can either choose items that are a good fit for your existing bathroom or look for showpieces that you can build your bathroom around. If something catches your eye, why not decorate your bathroom to suit it?
Of course, using antique items is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Anytime you use existing items to meet your needs, you help cut down on greenhouse gasses, poisonous emissions, and energy usage.
You can even use vintage light fixtures, which can dramatically change the mood and brightness of the bathroom. An antique lighting fixture may become your bathroom’s standout feature, and it can last for many years.
Antique items are often very durable and well-made, particularly home fixtures. Their ornate beauty and intricate design make them instantly appealing, so if you haven’t considered a vintage light fixture for your bathroom, you may not know yet what you are missing out on.
If vintage items are not something that appeals to you, maybe you just haven’t found the right ones. Try looking at a few vintage bathroom galleries online to get some inspiration.
You can put out notices in the local newspaper or on your local social media marketplaces to let people know what you are looking for. You might be surprised at what offers you receive.
6. Wooden Walls
Using reclaimed wood on your bathroom walls instead of other materials such as new tiles or plastic wall panels will be environmentally sound. Since wood is natural, no synthetic materials need to be created. Wood can be sourced very inexpensively as well, and it will look gorgeous on the bathroom walls.
If you want a building material for the space that is easy to care for and that will last for a long time, consider having wood put in, and aim to source it from sustainable suppliers. Check salvage yards, hardware, and lumber yards for cheap, beautiful wood you can use.
Some of the boards may have nail holes or saw cuts on them. It’s up to you if you want to try to get rid of those or leave them in for their sense of history.
7. Don’t Renovate, Just Repaint
You may not need to replace your floors, walls, or other surfaces in the bathroom. If they are looking a bit tired and worn down, you can always try a fresh coat of paint and see how that looks.
Your floors may look like new after they have been properly painted, and that will cost less than redoing the entire floor. You will use fewer resources as well, which is why we have included painting on our list of sustainable options for your bathroom.
For even more environmental friendliness, try using paint colors that reflect light easily, particularly pastel shades. These will bring more light into the bathroom from the outside so that you don’t need to turn on the lights as often in the bathroom.
Just make sure you use sustainable paints! Traditional paints often contain VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that can harm indoor air quality. Sustainable paints have lower VOCs or are VOC-free. Look for paints labeled low-VOC or zero-VOC. Some brands even offer eco-friendly paints made from natural ingredients.
Making the bathroom a more sustainable space is about more than just the big changes. The small, everyday choices, like what we do with an empty container or where we choose to buy our products, can have a collective significant impact.
Incorporating recycled and sustainable materials in your bathroom not only makes it eco-friendly but also infuses it with character and a unique story. With these recommendations, you can have a space that aligns with your sustainable values and is stylish at the same time.
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