Make Your Bathroom More Eco-Friendly.
The bathroom isn’t the easiest place to be kind to the environment. But according to Matt Muenster of HGTV’s Bath Crashers, it can be done. The key to a sustainable, “green” bathroom is longevity. Basically, you want everything in your bathroom to last.
“I always tell people not to skimp on quality or cut corners,” says Matt. “Since the bathroom is the hardest room to renovate, it’s better to wait until your budget is where you want it to be. That way you get the job done right the first time around.” Renovations are expensive and disposing of an old tub and double vanity gives you negative green points.
He also warns against trends. “I don’t like to tell people what’s cool,” he laughs. “I want them to tell me what they think is cool.” That way the customer will be happy with their design decisions for years to come.
So, how many ways are there to green your design? Turns out, quite a lot!
Water is vital to life, so it makes sense to conserve it when you can. The bathroom happens to be one of the best places in your home to start. Did you know that more than 47% of water use in the average American home occurs there?
And there are many ways to cut back on water use and overuse!
The toilet is the first offender. With 24% of our water use coming from that device, it’s the single highest water suck in the home. Installing a low-flow toilet is a good option, but a dual-flush toilet might be even better since you can choose the strength of the flush. Compared to conventional toilets, a dual-flush option helps you save as much as 17,000 gallons of water a year.
Jack Monahan at Kohler Signature Store of King of Prussia supports the dual-flush choice. “At Kohler we don’t spend as much time investing in low-flow technologies as we do in high efficiency products that reduce water usage and use that water to its maximum potential,” he notes. After all, having to flush twice is not very green.
The shower comes next. Similarly, low-flow showerheads with customizable manual pressure settings are your best bet. “If you’re simply rinsing off, the low setting is fine,” says Jack. “But getting shampoo out of your hair? You might want to add a bit more power to your wash, but only when necessary.”
Sinks, too, can go low-flow with aerator options and motion sensors to turn on only when in use. You know, instead of being “in use” while you’re just brushing your teeth.
And the best part, these eco improvements pay for themselves in just a couple of years!
You’ve probably heard about making the switch from incandescent light bulbs to LEDs, but did you know how much you’d be saving? According to Caitlin Bovell of Mattioni Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, “LEDs use up to 75% less energy and last 30 to 50 times longer.” And it’s one of the easiest and cheapest places to start your greening.
Taking a step further, dimming lights are another option. Very few situations call for full force lighting, and with adjustable options, everything is in your control.
If you’re doing a full redesign, one of the best additions to include is a skylight or sun tunnel. The sun’s rays are all you likely need during the day to light your bathroom, saving you money and bringing the outside in.
Heat & Air
The warmer months might call for turning on the AC to cool off, but most people find their highest energy use comes from heating their home in the winter. Though the bathroom is the last place you want to skimp on heat, that doesn’t mean you can’t save energy.
Several sources of heat are better than just one for the same reason dual-flow toilets and showerheads are better than one-setting models—you can customize where and how much heat you want. So bring on the heat lamps, heated towel racks and under-floor radiant heating for evenly spread warmth!
Radiant floor heating is especially great because it can hide under tile and ceramic flooring and will keep the room warm even after you turn it off.
One green option that you may not have thought of is an exhaust fan. In fact, Bath Crashers’ Matt Muenster considers it an essential. “An exhaust fan is a big deal for longevity,” he stresses. “Without one, all that moisture will cause mold to grow, destroying everything and making cleaning a nightmare.” We’re convinced!
Pro tip: Choose a fan with a motion or humidity sensor so it works only when it has to.
When it comes to sustainability, not all materials are created equal. But what makes something “green”? Think recycled, biodegradable, renewable, non-toxic and long-lasting—preferably in combination. Matt Muenster share some of his favorites:
- Recycled barn wood. Great as a feature wall or vanity accent, recycled wood ticks all the eco boxes. And since it’s already used to years of rainfall, the bathroom’s high humidity won’t be a problem.
- Quartz. For countertops, you can’t go wrong with quartz. It’s a little pricy, but no more than granite. Plus, it’s zero maintenance, so you don’t have to worry about chemical sealants and other upkeep.
- Concrete. It may be underrated and understated, but concrete is great for so many reasons. It doesn’t have to be mined out of the earth, can be molded into any shape, made into any color and is great for easy-to-care-for floors.
- Bamboo. The ultimate renewable resource! It’s fast growing, beating other types of wood by far. And when heat and pressure treated, the sugars caramelize into a beautiful finish that doesn’t scratch!
For more inspiration, head over to Pinterest for creative options like recycled cork walls, retro linoleum floors, recycled ceramic mosaic tiling and things you’ve never imagined.
After all the remodeling is done, it’s time to redecorate, still keeping green values in mind.
One of the best ways to green your décor is to literally add some greens. Houseplants are a great help in improving air quality while adding color and life to the room. Though the bathroom’s low light and high humidity aren’t ideal for every houseplant, some—like aloe vera, ferns, dracaenas, orchids, peace lilies, spider plants—thrive there.
For finishing touches, you can find eco-friendly, stylish options for almost every bathroom essential—from natural fiber storage baskets and organic cotton towels to recycled glass toiletry containers and more. And, of course, choose earth-friendly soaps, shampoos and other bath products.
Whether you’re due for a redesign or looking to make some simple swaps, you’ll be on your way to a greener bathroom in no time!