Design An Environmentally-Friendly Bathroom

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Remodeling your bathroom is a great way to add value to your home and seriously improve your everyday life. It’s also the perfect opportunity to create a room that’s not only beautiful and functional, but also kind to the planet.

Environmentally-Friendly Toilets

Most people couldn’t imagine living without a toilet, however conventional toilets consume huge amounts of water. The average toilet uses about six gallons of water per flush and that really adds up! Luckily, lots of new toilet options are available that conserve water while still flushing waste away effectively. Here are a few options you may want to consider for your new, sustainable bathroom:

  • Dual flush toilets: These toilets have two different flush settings: a gentle flush that uses very little water when only liquid waste is involved and a more powerful flush to insure that solid wastes are completely removed. Even when you choose the solid waste flush, this type of toilet still uses less water than a conventional toilet.
  • Low flow toilets: These toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons of water per flush.
  • High efficiency toilets: Using only 1.28 gallons of water per flush, high efficiency toilets use even less water than low flow toilets. High efficiency toilets may be single or dual flush models.
  • Composting toilets: Using little to no water, composting toilets process waste in a very environmentally friendly way. In order to keep them fresh, they require a ventilation system to release fumes outdoors. Unfortunately composting toilets are expensive and often complicated to install.

All toilets built after 1994 conserve more water than older ones. If you’ve got a toilet built before 1994, consider replacing it with a more efficient model.


Eco-friendly Sinks, Tubs and Showers

An eco-friendly bathroom needs fixtures that will help you stay clean without taxing the planet. These strategies will help you design sink, tub and shower areas that are beautiful as well as respectful to the environment:

  • Conserve water: Select low flow faucets and showerheads that maintain good water pressure while restricting water usage.
  • Recycle: Consider working with recycled glass or tiles to surround your tub and shower area, or for the backsplash behind your sink. You might also want to give a second life to a salvaged vintage bathtub or sink. Use reclaimed or recycled materials for every part of the bathroom you decide to remodel.
  • Get creative: Design your own dramatic décor from natural materials by making a shower surround made from river rocks.


Bathroom Walls and Flooring

Don’t forget about the outer frame of your bathroom when designing a sustainable, environmentally friendly bathroom. You don’t have to sacrifice style for eco-friendly floors or walls when you choose materials including:

  • Engineered wood: Warm and natural wood isn’t normally suitable for a room with as much moisture as a bathroom, however engineered wood from recycled or reclaimed sources is a great moisture resistant option.
  • Recycled glass: Add color and shine with a non-porous material that won’t harbor germs. You might want to try solid glass tiles or those with mosaic patterns from recycled glass chips.
  • Recycled ceramic tiles: You’ll be able to find recycled ceramic tiles in a huge range of solid colors and patterns. Some contain unique artwork.
  • Natural stone: Smooth, non-porous stone floors and walls give your bathroom a spa-like appearance.
  • Linoleum: Dependable linoleum floors are moisture resistant and actually an affordable eco-friendly choice. Today’s linoleum flooring is stylish and attractive, with lots of color and pattern choices.

If you’re planning to paint your bathroom walls, you’ve still got environmentally responsible options. New eco-friendly paints are now available in lots of great colors from a number of different manufacturers, offering some or all of these benefits:

  • Great coverage and durability
  • Natural pigments
  • Water based, low solvent formulas
  • Low to zero VOC
  • No ammonia or formaldehyde
  • Very little odor
  • Pet and child safety when dry.

Environmentally Friendly Furniture and Cabinetry

Before buying brand new shelves, cabinets or other bathroom furniture, explore the possibility of using vintage family pieces in your bathroom. Another option is decorating your bathroom with salvaged cabinetry and used or antique shelves, seating and perhaps a small, decorative table. If you have your heart set on a brand new vanity, try to find one certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Eco-Friendly Lighting

For the least impact on the environment try to rely as much as possible on natural lighting for your bathroom. For privacy, large clear glass windows probably won’t be your first choice. One of these other options might be just the right for your bathroom:

  • Skylights
  • Glass block or other translucent windows
  • Clear windows positioned high on the wall (about chin height to ceiling).

Once the sun goes down, you won’t be able to take advantage of natural light. For nighttime lighting, stick to long lasting, low-wattage compact florescent bulbs that are compatible with most lighting fixtures.

An eco-friendly bathroom remodel isn’t just a responsible choice; it can also be attractive and functional. Once your renovation is complete, you probably won’t even think much about your bathroom’s environmental features – you’ll just be enjoying a great new bathroom.

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Last Updated: November 13, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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