Going "Green" in the Bathroom

Saving the planet actually begins at home. You’ve already ditched the plastic grocery bags, started a neighborhood recycling effort and bought yourself a hybrid car. As odd as it sounds the next step can start by greening up your bathroom. It’s a room that is used frequently on a daily basis. You’ll be quite surprised at the simple changes you can make to create an environmentally friendly bathroom. Here are some of our favorite ideas!

Shower Curtains

Choosing the right shower curtain will make a positive difference on your health and the environment. Today, there are many options for “green” shower curtains.

Did you know those cheap PVC (polyvinyl chloride) shower curtains create noxious gasses that can harm you and your family? The minute you take that plastic shower curtain out of the package, you get a big hit of that horrible smell. It’s a result of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs that include a cancer-causing compound known as bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP. Once the package is opened it will off-gas for a month or more.

Choosing the right shower curtain will make a positive difference on your health and the environment. Today, there are many options for “green” shower curtains. To save money, look for PEVA ((polyethylene vinyl acetate). These are environmentally friendly, approved by the EPA and PVC free. Another choice is recycled polyester fabric. They’re machine washable and mold resistant.

A more expensive option is organic cotton or hemp shower curtains. They often come in their natural hues or printed with non-toxic dyes to add a pop of color. Like most shower curtains, these also come in various sizes and can be installed with regular shower rings, clips or grommets. This type is quite an investment but will last much longer than synthetic materials.

Bath Mats
Another environments hazard is your unassuming bath mat. The cheap rugs contain those nasty VOCs which also pose a health threat. They tend to easily breed mold and mildew, which can cause respiratory problems and severe allergies. In addition, they do not break down, so they will remain in landfills for posterity. Consider buying a biodegradable bath mat to help the environment.

Fabric bath mats and rugs are the most common but other materials work just as well and are extremely durable and create less of a health hazard. Teak or cork mats dry quicker than fabric or synthetic rugs and have a stylish spa-like appearance. Cork is a renewable resource and has a little cushion versus teak.

If you still prefer soft fabric underfoot, why not research organic cotton. It’s another eco-friendly choice and has the same look and feel as a standard cotton bath rug—except it’s much softer to the touch. Mats made from bamboo fibers are another sustainable choice and are even suppler than cotton. Both plants are grown without the use of pesticides.

Cleaning Products
It’s time to move away from chemical bathroom cleaners. They do happen to kill bacteria effectively, however they are a danger to your family and the overall environment. The chemicals go down the drain and into public water systems, or in the case of a well, they can soak into the soil via septic systems and contaminate ground water.

Chemical cleaning products can cause contact dermatitis and many other issues if absorbed into the skin. Their caustic vapors are very harmful to your lungs, mucus membranes and eyes.

Luckily there are hundreds of environmentally friendly cleaning products for use in the bathroom and other parts of the home. These naturally-based, biodegradable cleansers are about the same price as chemical-laden products and, in most cases, are as effective. With greening of the planet at an all-time high, large corporations are looking into formulations to compete with natural cleaning products.

Always check the label when buying bathroom cleaners. Avoid anything containing phosphates, chlorine and ammonia. Ingredients such as d-limonene and lauramine oxide are great alternative to chemicals.

Bath Towels
Along with shower curtains and bath mats, you can make a change by switching from regular cotton or microfiber to organic cotton and bamboo towels. Both are super soft, absorbant and contain no harmful dyes or chemicals.

Higher quality organic bath towels will cost more than the standard versions. You don’t have to go out and replace them all at once. You can purchase one at a time as your old towels wear out.

More Eco-Friendly Bathroom Ideas
Traditional water heaters are a drain on your pocketbook and a huge waste of energy. Consider the amount of consumption to run a water heater 24/7. It has to maintain gallons and gallons of water at a constant temperature. Tankless water heaters are the wave of the future.

They take up little space, mounted on a wall and heat the water as it is needed—that’s why we refer to them as “on-demand” water heaters. The price of tankless units have dropped, so they’ve become much more affordable and on par with conventional water heaters.

In the mid-1990s, low-flow toilets were a decent way to reduce water consumption. Unfortunately, they used such little water it was much more difficult to flush solid waste. Now, a better alternative is to install a dual-flush toilet. It only uses on average 1.5 gallons of water per flush. One lever is for liquid and the other one is to remove solid waste. This type of toilet can save approximately 7,000 gallons of water in a year for a family of four. Or, you can convert your regular toilet unit into a dual flush with a converter kit.

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