Green Interiors

Creating a sustainable bathroom
by Pamela Portwood

Whether you like to take long, relaxing baths on Sunday afternoons or to wake up with hot showers on Monday mornings, your bathroom can be a sustainable space. Whether it's the smallest room in your house or the most luxurious, your bathroom is a great place to go green.

Greening your bathroom can conserve water and energy, recycle materials and create a healthier home. Just about everything in your bathroom can be eco-friendly - from the functional elements to the decorative ones.

In the desert, water conservation is the first order of the day in the bathroom. Using low-flow showerheads and sink fixtures doesn't have to be boring because more decorative styles are coming on the market all the time. The inexpensive method is to install flow restrictors in your current models.

If you bought your toilet after 1992, it should meet the Environmental Protection Agency's 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) low-flow standard. Even so, you can reduce your water usage another 20% by installing an ultra-low-flow or dual-flush toilet that meets the EPA's 2007 WaterSense standards for high-efficiency toilets (HETs).

If you are using bricks in an old toilet to reduce water consumption, it's time to pull them out. The sediment from the bricks can damage your pipes. If you can't purchase a water-saving toilet, replace the bricks with large, plastic soda bottles filled with water, or check into toilet conversion products like SimpleFlush.

Improving the way your bathroom water is heated will reduce your energy usage. Using a tankless water heater or a solar hot-water heater are two possibilities. You can even combine a solar system with a tankless water heater for still lower energy use and greater savings.

Energy efficiency and one of the coziest features of a sustainable bathroom come together with in-floor heating to warm the room and take the chill off of the floor.

Whether you want your bathroom to be a calm, Zen space or a sleek, modern room, the elements that set the style - the flooring, wall coverings, cabinetry, sinks and fixtures - can be eco-friendly.

The world of green bathroom cabinetry and sinks is as exciting as green furniture is today. One option is to select cabinetry with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which ensures that the wood was sustainably harvested. EnviroGLAS makes beautiful flooring and countertops that resemble terrazzo but are made from recycled glass and porcelain from tubs, toilets and sinks.

Recycled glass tiles add an enchanting, iridescent note to backsplashes and shower walls. Cobalt-blue Skyy vodka bottles are popular for small, recycled glass tiles.

For the walls, plan on using no-VOC paint. Not only will you avoid that "new paint" smell in a small space, but you also will avoid breathing volatile organic compounds that cause respiratory and other health problems. No-VOC tile grout sealer also is available.

Other VOC hazards to avoid are plastic shower curtains and shower curtain liners made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Think of that nasty "new shower curtain liner" smell. Some options include hemp or linen shower curtains, or a nylon shower curtain liner with a fabric curtain.

Also, be sure to include and use a vented fan to prevent the growth of mold, another major air quality issue in bathrooms.

To complete your revitalized bathroom, treat yourself to some fluffy, organic-cotton towels and select natural cleaning products. The last thing that you want is to pollute your beautiful new space with hazardous chemicals.

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Article is reprinted courtesy of The New Southwest (formerly Tucson Green Times).


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