Save Energy, Water and Cash: Go Green in the Bathroom

When you’ve got to go you’ve got to go. Green that is. In the bathroom.
Apr 5, 2010 6:24 PM ET

Save Energy, Water and Cash: Go Green in the Bathroom

And I don’t mean hugging the toilet because of that all nighter you pulled, you party animal, you. We’re talking about slashing your water, energy, paper and carbon footprint each and every time you nip into the loo, take a shower or wash your hands. Given that the average person spends 1-3 years over a lifetime in the bathroom, it can have a real impact on our earth.

There are 3 major areas in the bathroom to consider: The toilet, the sink, and the shower/tub. Let’s take them in order of urgency:

The Toilet

John, potty, loo, throne, crapper (After Thomas Crapper, who popularized it) — whatever you call it, the toilet is often the first reason you duck into the bathroom, certainly the most compelling. So, how can you, eh, relieve yourself most greenly?

Well, first, don’t waste paper — turn your roll over so it comes over the top, not under the bottom of the roll- it won’t get away from you that way. Use 100% post-consumer recycled paper, like the stuff our friends at Seventh Generation offer. Then make sure the beast itself is a low flow toilet. If you’ve got an old water waster, install a dual-flush toilet or dual-flush retrofit on your current toilet. If you are building or remodeling, you might want to put in a composting unit, and feed your flowers in a natural cycle.

The Sink

Now you need to wash your hands. Use a nice biodegradable soap like Dr. Bronner’s or one of Seventh Generation’s products. Lots to choose from here. Put in a low-flow faucet aerator to keep water flow down, and turn off the water while you're brushing your teeth — you’ll save up to six gallons of H2O a day.

Men, if you shave with a wet razor, half a sink-full of warm water will do the job instead of running the faucet. And wash your hands and face in the sink, too, not under a running faucet. Organic cotton towels mean no pesticides, healthier soils and higher prices for the farmer.

The Tub and Shower

Start with a low flow shower head here- the spray is strong but the flow is low. And I don’t begrudge myself or anyone else the nice hot soak now and then, but keep in mind all the energy it takes to heat and pump and clean that water — use it for a rewarding luxury, not a daily ritual.

Avoid vinyl shower curtains — opt for a fiber like hemp, which is naturally resistant to mold, as long as you keep your bathroom well-ventilated. Use green cleaners- even just a little vinegar and baking soda will keep things sparkling. And organic cotton bath towels too.

Here’s a few bathroom water statistics from Planet Green:

  • 21 percent: Household water use that comes from the shower.

  • 26 percent: Household water use that comes from flushing the toilet.

  • 1.5 percent: Household water use that comes from using the bath.

  • 80 gallons: Amount of water the average American uses a day.

  • 2.5 gallons: Amount of water used per day by the rest of the world.

  • 260 gallons: Amount of water used by the average household in the developed world.

  • 67 percent: Water heating costs for households for showers alone.

  • 22 gallons: Amount of water flushed down the toilet daily in the U.S.

  • $5: Cost of a low flow shower head that will cut your consumption by 45 gallons per day.

  • 15,000: Amount of water you can save per year by taking a Navy shower.

  • 60 gallons: Average amount of water used in taking a shower.

  • 3 gallons: Amount of water used when taking a Navy shower.

So there it is in a nutshell — you can start with one new habit or take on the whole agenda to cut your bathroom time and footprint. For resources for outfitting the green bath, Planet Green has a pretty good list of products and sources. Don’t leave the soap in the tub, wipe up the floor when you’re done, and hurry up in there! I need to use the loo.

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