There are so many small changes you can make at home that can help you on your journey to sustainable living. Small actions do add up and these simple steps will help you go green in the bathroom.
Having an eco-friendly bathroom is not just about the way we look. Our day-to-day habits can have a pretty substantial impact on the environment. The bathroom is a water hog, I mean think about how much of it you use, when you shower, brush your teeth and flush the toilet. A reminder to never use the toilet as a garbage can make sure you never flush these types of things.
On average, each of us uses well over 100 litres of water a day just flushing the toilet. Toilets account for 28 % of your total indoor water use. Combined with showers and baths, the bathroom represents about 50 % of your home’s total indoor water use.
Let's Go Green In The Bathroom:
Check the faucets
A steady drip can waste up to 55 litres of water in just 24 hours, if not looked after, it could add up to 20,075 litres per year. Install a low flow showerhead, you’ll save 15 to 30 litres of water per minute. And install low flow aerators on your faucets. Check for leaks and fix them immediately. Here is a sobering stat, each year, bathroom leaks waste about 3 trillion litres of water, I have trouble wrapping my head around this! Some leaks are hard to find, others are small and we tend to put them off, but a leaky faucet that is constantly dripping is not only wasting millions of litres of water, you are also paying for water you are not using.
If you want to know how much water your household uses each year take a look at this water consumption calculator from Consumer Support Group.
Let's talk about the toilet
The toilet is the largest single water-guzzling appliance in the house using about one third (1/3) of an individual’s total water use. Most older toilets use about 20 litres of water every time they are flushed. There are several things you can do to green your toilet.
Install a more efficient toilet if you can. If your toilet is over 25 years old, it's using 13 litres of water per flush. For a household of four, this could save about 76,000 litres per year.
You can also DIY your current toilet to be more efficient by placing an old plastic bottle (filled with water) into the tank, this helps to displace the amount of water in the tank, telling to use less water on every flush.
Check your toilet for leaks. Put a few drops of coloured food dye into the bowl and leave it for 30 mins, do not flush, if the dye appears then you have a leak. The most common toilet leak in a toilet in the rubber flapper valve. It can be as simple as replacing it. My advice, have a pro come in and take a look.
I mentioned this at the top of the post, please don't use your toilet as a garbage can. The only thing you should be flushing is toilet paper. There is no such thing as a flushable wipe, no matter what it says on the label.
Don’t flush good money away. Replace your toilet with a new efficient ultra-low-flush toilet and use between 50% and 80% less water per flush, depending on the size of your current toilet. Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth.
Now onto a product that we all use, in fact, we here in Canada overuse it. Did you know the average Canadian uses about 22kg of disposable tissue paper products each year, including about 100 rolls of toilet paper? Cutting down trees that are over 100 years old, for me is obscured! Have you ever thought about how sustainable your toiler paper actually is?
Always use recycled tissues and toilet paper and make sure they are 100% post-consumer recycled. Look for the TCF label that means it's “totally chlorine-free”, PCF will work as well, which stands for “Processed chlorine-free”. Every ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, 4,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity, 3 cubic yards of landfill and 7,000 gallons of water. And make sure it comes with a third-party certification like FSC.
The average Canadian household uses about 100 rolls of TP per year. Almost all of it coming from the Boreal Forest, and old-growth forest. If all of us opted to use paper from recycled materials instead of virgin pulp, we'd save 4,800,000 trees!
You can also save a ton of money by buying in bulk. You can also consider using less toilet paper and opting for a bidet attachment instead.
Green in the shower
Take a shower instead of a bath, this will save you about 30 litres each time, or you can always shower with a friend, just saying! LOL! And if you shorten your showers you will save about 10 litres a minute and thousands of iters over a year. It all adds up.
Install a low-flow showerhead. These have come a long way in the last 10 years. There is so much selection to choose from. They are inexpensive and very easy to install. They work by slowing the flow rate of the water and can save about 5-7 litres of water per minute.
Turn off the tap and fix leaky drips
Don't let the water run when you are brushing your teeth, shaving, washing your face or hands.
A drippy tap can drive me nuts! The sound is like torture! But it's also super wasteful to let a drip go on and on. A faucet drip is closing you and the plant, in fact, you are wasting over 10,000 litres of water in one year! So get it fixed! Also, consider a faucet aerator that works by mixing air and water hence reducing the water flow, you can use these in the kitchen as well.
Being eco-friendly in the bathroom has lots to do with saving water, but there are other things you can do.
Reduce over-packaged bathroom products
As you run out of body wash, hair products etc. try switching to reusable alternatives like shampoo bars, there are so many good ones to choose from. And switching to zero waste makeup can help reduce your plastic waste too.
Instead of body wash in plastic bottles, choose bar soap with no packaging or paper if you can't find that. If you must go with plastic, try to support companies that are using recycled plastic to reduce their impact.
Use reusable makeup rounds instead of cotton ones. These convenient, one-time-use items create a lot of waste and cause a lot of issues in landfills.
If you use a natural sponge, it's actually not the best option either. The harvesting of natural sponges disturbs marine environments and syntenic sponges are normally made from plastic. So reusable options are your best bet. And this goes for your razors, tampons and menstrual pads, toothbrushes and toothpaste, cotton rounds as well. Try a safety razor or menstrual cup instead.
Let's talk about recycling
To go green in the bathroom we want to try and reduce the amount of water we waste and the volume of garbage we create. Opting for reusables is one way, but you also want to make sure you are recycling properly. Plastic shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles can go in the blue bin, look out for plastic with the #1 or #2, these have higher recycling rates. Most toothpaste tubes come in cardboard boxes, you can recycle the box, not the tube. Same for the toilet paper roll, it's made from cardboard too and be can be recycled. Don't worry about removing the labels from bottles, just give them a good rise.
Research has shown that simply by placing a blue bin in the bathroom, people tend to recycle more. It's so important to get to know your recycling facility, most cities have apps and websites to help.
Try to buy towels with low-impact dyes or something known as colour-grown cotton, this happens thanks to the plant's genetic properties, colours include shades of green, beige and brown.
Most people think bamboo is better than cotton, but it's really much more chemical-intensive the manufacture. If you are buying bamboo make sure it's made with low-impact dyes and has a reputable certification like Oeko-Tex. Organic Lifestyle carries some great one. And also check out Shoo-Foo, they carry a range of made-in-Canada bamboo towels. You can find cheaper organic cotton at places like Winners, The Bay and Bed Bath and Beyond, but there is no guarantee that they are sweat-shop-free.
Shower curtain liners are made with PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride which contains phthalates. Phthalates have been linked to asthma and can also act as hormone disruptors. Go for PEVA instead, it’s vinyl but has no phthalates. Choose an eco-friendly shower curtain too.
A study conducted in 2008 by the Centre For Health, Environment and Justice found plastic shower curtains can off-gas as many as 108 VOCs (volatile organic compounds) with some lingering in the air for over a month.
Vinyl is a common shower curtain but to go in green in the bathroom I recommenced avoiding this type of material. Instead, try hemp, it naturally resists mildew and mould, it will cost you more up-front but think about how many times you replace your vinyl liner, it will pay for itself in less than a year. Glass shower doors are another great option, they are much more of an investment but will rid you of having to replace your shower current over and over again.
Antibacterial bath mats are just a trend, they are packed full of nasty chemicals we simply don't need in the home.
If you are using a teak bath mat, odds are the wood comes from old-growth tropical rain forests or a PVC (a type of plastic) embedded in pebbles.
Instead, look for organic cotton mats that have no backing. Backings are normally made using synthetic glue and other chemicals like formaldehyde.
BONUS: Stop using toxic chemicals to clean
If you want to go green in the bathroom, consider green cleaning products that don't harm you or the planet.
Bleach, a common "cleaner" used in the home is actually not a cleaner at all, it's a disinfectant, so yes it's' getting rid of germs, but it's not actually getting rid of grime or build-up and its really toxic to inhale.
There has always been a lot of nonsense talk stating that green cleaners don't work as well as conventional ones, and it's a bunch on malarky! We've been trained to think that if the home does not smell like bleach it can't possibly be clean. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Natural cleaners have come a long way, companies have spent thousands in R&D to make sure their products work!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW TO GO GREEN IN THE BATHROOM
It can be difficult when you are starting a green journey to figure out what to do in the home. The first step is really the understanding of how each thing in one given room impacts the world and then putting good action steps in place to make those changes. Change takes time. Rome was not built in a day!
I'd love to know what you think, have you gone green in the bathroom? What kinds of actionable practices have you put in place?
Share in the comments below!