The Eco Bathroom: Recycling in the Bathroom
When it comes to recycling and being environmentally-friendly, the bathroom is often the most forgotten room in the house. It's not difficult to create an eco bathroom. Sometimes all you need are a few carefully chosen finishing touches.
Composting organic kitchen waste is common and many households do this. But you can also compost some items in your bathroom. Consider adding a pail in your bathroom vanity to collect items such as soap scraps, hair, used cotton swabs, cotton balls, plant trimmings and lightly used tissue. (Lightly used tissue means tissue that's been used to remove make-up or wipe a slightly runny nose. Do not use toilet paper that's soiled.) If you have room in your bathroom, you can even add another garbage can specifically for items for composting.
Collect the Recyclables
Many items used in the bathroom can be recycled. Shampoo and conditioner bottles can usually be recycled. Many hair care product containers can as well. You will not be able to recycle aerosol hairspray bottles or empty deodorant tubes. Collect all paper products like toilet paper rolls, product packaging and tissue boxes. Any office supply store and some home hardware stores carry small, narrow recycling boxes that you can place discreetly in your bathroom to hold these recyclables. From a design perspective, these boxes are not attractive, but you can sometimes store them in a bathroom cupboard or squeeze them out-of-sight beside your toilet.
The standard American toilet has been traditionally designed to use a lot of water. Energy experts say that toilets are responsible for up to 30 percent of residential indoor water consumption. More people are becoming aware of this potential waste of water and toilet manufacturers are creating more efficient toilets. If you're completing even just a partial bathroom overhaul, it's a good idea to replace the toilet if you have one that was manufactured before 1992. When remodeling your bathroom, look for a Watersense labeled toilet. You can often recycle and reuse the toilet seat from the older toilet if you like it and it fits.
Composting toilets are another option. They've advanced in design and efficiency to look and function much like regular toilets without requiring a sewer hook-up. A composting toilet needs to be installed correctly with special odor-releasing pipes so this option is better if you're planning a complete bathroom overhaul.
Grey Water Recycling
If you're completing a full bathroom overhaul, consider installing a greywater system. It funnels water from the sink, filters it and stores it in a reservoir under the sink. This water is then pumped into the toilet when it's flushed.
For a truly eco-friendly bathroom, choose flooring made out of recycled materials. Ceramic tile is a good option because it can be made entirely out of salvaged tile. It's also possible to purchase flooring made in part or completely out of recycled rubber. Recycled flooring can often be more expensive.
Another option is to visit your local building material reuse store and purchase salvaged flooring from them. Sometimes they have only limited supplies of a certain type of flooring, so this option might be better for renovations of a small bathroom.
Vinyl flooring is cheap and it generally looks good too, but consider using linoleum instead. Linoleum has a less toxic production process and is made from sawdust and linseed oil.
The Demolition Process
When doing a complete bathroom overhaul, be careful about the demolition process. Salvage what you can. A vanity you no longer want could be donated to a local thrift shop. If you have large amounts of certain items, like tiles, consider contacting a local architectural salvage company. These types of companies are more interested in tiles of historic interest or extremely large amounts of tile. Most cities have a building reuse store you can donate good quality salvaged items from your bathroom demolition.