As conscientious, ethical consumers, we’re all trying to do our part to lessen our impact on the environment. There are lots of ways you can do that in the bathroom! You’ll benefit in more than the moral department, too! Being greener in the bathroom will save you money and make your home healthier to live in.
Here are our top tips for greening up your bathroom!
Install low-flow fixtures
Probably the biggest impact your bathroom has on the environment is water usage. Whether you’re showering, brushing your teeth, or washing your hands, you’re using up fresh, clean water–something that’s in short supply all around the world.
That’s why you should make a point to install water-saving fixtures in your bathroom. Low-flow models will often save as much as 60% of the water usage over older, inefficient fixtures. Even if you’re coming from a relatively recent shower head, for instance, choosing a low-flow model could save you 40% of the overall output.
You can find low-flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads. To help you find them, the EPA has a program called WaterSense. Manufacturers who make water-efficient products apply to have them tested and certified. When you see a WaterSense label, you can trust that the product is both certified to use the stated, low flow rate, and to work well while saving you water.
By law, any toilet sold today should use 1.6 gallons per flush or less. Low-flow models use as little as 1-1.28 GPF. If you want to cut back but are hesitant, you can try a dual-flush model! These thrones have a 1.6 GPF flush option for solids, and a 1.0-1.28 GPF flush for liquids. They’re a great compromise between conservatism and functionality!
In the case of the shower and sink, cutting back on your water usage will also have a positive impact on your gas/electric bill! Using less hot water means less energy is used to heat your tank or tankless water heater. So, be sure to use low-flow fixtures there as well!
We know as well as you do that low-flow plumbing has historically performed poorly. Thankfully, designs have come a long way! As the major companies have started to market to the eco-conscious consumer, they’re spending lots more money engineering conservative fixtures that actually work well.
High Sierra’s shower heads are especially good:
There’s an extra financial incentive to invest in low-flow fixtures, too! Many utility companies and local jurisdictions offer rebates and tax incentives to do so.
Switch to LED lightbulbs
Bathroom lights spend a surprising amount of time on, especially in larger households. You probably have more than one light fixture in the bathroom, too. Using LED bulbs instead of incandescents or CFL (compact fluorescents) is a simple, easy way to make a dent in your electricity bill. LED’s are infinitely more efficient than incandescents, and they’re noticeably better than CFL’s. The best thing about them is how long they last, though. LED’s can run for years and years before they need to be replaced. We also appreciate that you can get much more comforting colors out of LED’s, compared to the harsh, cold CFL glow!
As with low-flow plumbing fixtures, you can usually find some local financial kickbacks for investing in energy-efficient lighting!
Upgrade the fan
The humble bathroom fan doesn’t get enough love. So many of us ignore it, or gripe about how it doesn’t work well without helping to fix it. And how often do you clean those vents? Probably not nearly often enough!
There are plenty of reasons to upgrade your bathroom fan, and they’re not all environmental. Doing so will also help reduce mold and mildew in your home, as well as making unpleasant toilet odors fade more swiftly.
On the environmental side, many of us end up running our ineffective fans for an hour or so after a shower, just to make some dent in the moisture. Fans are very, very power-hungry, and this usage adds up!
Updating your fan to an efficient model with a more effective ventilation pathway will make a world of difference. You can cut down on the time you run the fan, and still end up with a drier, healthier bathroom!
Avoid chemical cleaners
In our guides to cleaning toilets and choosing a toilet bowl cleaner, we talk a lot about the importance of choosing safe, non-toxic cleaning products to use in your bathroom (and the rest of your home). We think it’s worth another mention here!
You can read our in-depth explanation here (homeworthylist.com/best-toilet-bowl-cleaner ). To sum up, many common bathroom cleaning solutions contain highly toxic chemicals which cause both acute symptoms and long-term health problems. Respiratory issues, chemical burns, and even cancer have all been conclusively linked to toxic ingredients in popular cleaning products. They’re extremely harmful to the environment, too. Read a detailed rundown of common household cleaners and their toxic ingredients here:
So, stick to plant-based, non-toxic, and biodegradable cleaning solutions! Seventh Generation makes our favorites. We suggest their disinfecting bathroom cleaner, and the toilet bowl cleaner. They also make a tub and tile cleaner, but the disinfecting bathroom cleaner works better and doesn’t leave streaks. All their products are free of harmful additives and harsh chemicals.
Use recycled paper products
Americans use 8 million tons of toilet paper per year. That’s a staggering amount, even without considering the paper towels and tissues we use on top of it! Choosing paper products made from recycled fibers is one of the best things you can do in your home, especially in the bathroom.
We recommend 100% recycled TP and paper towels. Just by cutting out the use of virgin pulp/fibers, you can reduce the energy used to produce paper products by 40%. Recycling saves 50% of the water used, and 100% of the trees that would ordinarily be chopped down!
If every household in the country used just one 12-pack of recycled TP per year instead of traditional products, we’d save 2.5 million trees. Imagine the impact we’d have if all of us switched year-round!
Seventh Generation makes excellent recycled paper products. We suggest their unbleached TP, because it’s the most environmentally friendly and best for sensitive skin.
They also make similar paper towels, which are recycled and unbleached. We like them because they’re very sturdy, and they work great for cleaning toilets:
And if you’re one of the many people who keep tissues handy on the loo, check these out:
Stay away from air fresheners
Air fresheners are some of the most damaging products you can buy, as far as the environment is concerned. Aerosols are essentially concentrated greenhouse gases, and the fragrances used in air freshener products contain the same kinds of irritants and hormone disrupting chemicals as many cleaning products. We don’t recommend using them–ever!
Lighting a match is still one of the best ways to clear odor. Or, keep a simple beeswax candle handy. Beeswax doesn’t have any artificial scents or harmful chemicals inside.
Essential oils are also good for masking odors. If you want to make a healthy alternative to air freshener sprays, simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (peppermint, lemon, lavender, etc.) to a mister bottle filled with water.
And always remember: covering up a scent isn’t ever going to work as well as allowing it to air out. So, just open a window, or turn on the fan in the bathroom to help disperse odors.
Adjust your cleaning routine
While you’re always going to make some impact on the environment when you clean, you can reduce it significantly by taking some smart, proactive steps!
Spray your shower down with vinegar to prevent mold, to start with. This works incredibly well. All you need is a mister bottle and some crappy white vinegar from the grocery store. Spray down your shower after you use it, making sure to get all the corners, nooks and crannies.
Vinegar is a natural antiseptic, and will keep mold at bay for months. You should still clean the shower regularly, but this will keep gross mold spots from forming in the meantime. It allows you to clean less often, and makes your job easier when you do get around to cleaning.
If you have black mold in a drain, which is fairly common and far from healthy, use baking soda and vinegar! You can spend hours trying to use a disinfectant cleaner on that stuff, but the good old baking soda and vinegar trick does the job better than anything you’ll buy in a store.
Don’t use harsh drain-clearing chemicals. They’re not healthy to use or even have in your house, and they’re just about the worst thing you can put in the water supply. There are some great maintainers with enzymes you can use on a weekly basis to keep clogs at bay. They work just as well, and are harmless.
Or, you can simply take practical steps to prevent clogs from forming to begin with! Use a good mesh drain catcher to keep hair from going into your shower drain in the first place. Stay on top of clearing it, and stick to bath products which rinse off into simple suds and water rather than goopy soap scum messes.
If you know you’re using lots of TP, flush halfway to make things easier! That’s the best way to prevent toilet clogs. If yours has chronic problems with clogging, you’re probably better off replacing it than dealing with the constant frustration.
Boiling water or baking soda/vinegar applications can often clear a clogged drain, too! It’s not practical for toilets, but we’ve used these tricks on both sinks and shower drains with excellent results.