When you’re trying to live in a sustainable home, no room is too small to have an impact — and with the right ideas, a zero-waste bathroom is possible.
The term “zero-waste” is broadly defined, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some components of the zero-waste philosophy that would apply to bathroom decor and personal care products include: reducing packaging; curtailing excessive consumption; recycling and “upcycling”; composting; and eliminating waste (aiming towards zero) that goes to landfills.
This may sound heavy, but it’s really not. The right zero-waste bathroom ideas will help you make eco-friendly decorating choices without sacrificing stylish decor. Here are 9 of the best zero-waste bathroom ideas to give you the powder room of your dreams.
9 Zero-Waste Bathroom Ideas
1. Recycle When You Redecorate
Watching home makeover shows can be a lot of fun. You might even see some eco-friendly home decor ideas that you can steal. But keep in mind that these shows usually feature smashing everything with a sledgehammer, then tossing it in the garbage. It can be very wasteful. If you’re planning to do a zero-waste bathroom makeover, think about where older fixtures will end up if you replace them.
A zero-waste bathroom is “not just about what you’re buying, it’s about what you’re doing with your original bathroom, too,” says Laura Hodges, owner of Laura Hodges Studio in Catonsville, Maryland. She says people don’t always realize how many items from their bathroom can be recycled, such as wooden cabinets.
If recycling isn’t possible where you live, consider donating to charity. Habitat For Humanity, for example, will take mirrors, flooring, and even (clean) toilets.
2. Go LED With Your Lighting
One of the best ideas for converting to a zero-waste bathroom is to conserve energy. Swapping out traditional light bulbs with LED light bulbs, which use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs, can have a big impact. Opt for LED light bulbs that are 3,000 Kelvin (also known as “warm white”) for the best glow, suggests Hodges.
Where you install your lights matters, too. “You need less light [when] you’re lighting from the right angle,” Hodges says. She recommends installing light fixtures in your bathroom at sconce height, so that you are not in shadow when you look at yourself in the mirror. Recessed lights, which are embedded in the ceiling, create more shadows, she says. That may encourage you to compensate by adding more lights, aka using more energy.
Of course, any natural light that you can capture from a skylight or from windows is the most eco-friendly lighting option of all.
3. Be Thoughtful About Heating
Radiant heat floors are your best choice for a zero-waste bathroom, since “heat coming up from below is much more efficient than any other type of heat,” says Hodges. Hey, anything that keeps our feet warm on cold mornings is fine with us.
A skylight can add some heat from the sun. And during colder months, putting curtains on your bathroom windows will cut back on energy costs.
4. Pare Back Your Water Consumption
Low-flow toilets (also called low-flush toilets) and low-flow faucets are a must for an eco-friendly bathroom. They conserve water, and fortunately, they are easy to find at most home decor or home improvement stores.
There are also low-flow options for showerheads, which the EPA awards with a WaterSense label. A WaterSense label means the showerhead releases no more than 2 gallons of water per minute; that’s half a gallon less than a standard showerhead.
Avoid installing body sprayer systems in your shower, though. Yes, they look cool and feel good. But they really do waste a lot of water!
On the subject of plumbing, make sure you have any leaky faucets fixed immediately. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, one drip per second adds up to 1,661 gallons of water per year.
5. Minimize Your Plastic
You can make huge strides towards having a zero-waste bathroom with more conscious consumer choices — namely cutting back on plastics. Over 90 percent of plastics are not recycled, according to Greenpeace. Most of those plastics end up in our oceans and landfills, and plastic can take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
Some easy swaps include using a bamboo toothbrush, such as this one from Hello Boo, using mouthwash tablets from by Humankind, or using toothpaste tablets from Georganics. Instead of purchasing new plastic or glass cup holders, upcycle clean jars or empty candle holders to hold your toothbrush.
Transitioning to shampoo bars, conditioner bars, and lotion bars are a fantastic way to downgrade your plastic usage. They’re basically just like a bar of soap. Check out these ones from EcoRoots, these ones from Package Free, and even this one from Trader Joe’s (which I’ve been using myself and loving).
Using refillable products is a great option for cutting back on plastic waste and glass waste. Public Goods sells bags of refillable hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, and moisturizer.
6. Install A Bidet
Bamboo toilet paper or recycled toilet paper are great choices. But you can go one step further in your eco-friendly home decor with a bidet. Bidets, which are common in many European homes, spray water onto the behind and genitalia.
A bidet can be placed side-by-side with a toilet, or it can be retrofitted onto an older toilet. Sometimes, a bidet will require the use of electricity, so you’ll need an outlet to plug it in. With the TUSHY bidet, it’s simply an attachment.
Hodges says she frequently purchases the Toto brand, which offers several bidets, for her clients. Not only is the Toto “the go-to for the best toilets,” she says, but the brand donates all imperfect fired porcelain for recycling and reuses as floor tiles.
On the subject of personal hygiene, if you have to use disposable wipes, purchase biodegradable ones. Standard flushable wet wipes are terrible for the environment as well as the sewer system.
7. Ditch Disposable Personal Care Items
The typical bathroom has dozens of single-use personal care items—cotton swabs, facial wipes, cotton balls, etc. Reusable alternatives will not only save resources, but can be cleaned and steralized between uses. EcoRoots sells a set of 10 reusable cotton rounds that can be washed between each use and left to air dry.
You can also switch to biodegradable personal care products that can be composted after use. Check out these biodegradable cotton swabs from EarthHero and these compostable hair ties from Package Free.
8. Use Recycled Fabrics and Organic Certified Cotton
Textiles are a crucial component of a zero-waste bathroom. The textile industry is responsible for excessive water usage, toxic dyes and manufacturing pollution. While it’s primarily the fashion industry that is called out for its wastefulness, your bathroom textiles go through similar processes as well.
The most eco-friendly option for your bath towels, bath mats and shower curtains is anything with a Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) organic cotton certification. A GOTS certification means the manufacturing process for the organic cotton did not use certain chemicals, bleaches and dyes, among other eco-friendly standards.
Lots of brands, such as West Elm, Under the Canopy, and MadeTrade, sell GOTS certified organic cotton products. H&M Home’s Conscious line is a more affordable option for cotton towels, which are made with at least 50 percent sustainably sourced materials, as well as a partially-recycled shower curtain.
9. Clean-Up Your Cleaning Routine!
Cleaning your bathroom is always a drag, but you can feel good about protecting the environment when you use eco-friendly cleaning products and materials. An this is an area where the zero-waste bathroom ideas are endless:
- Make your own at home and store them in a glass spray bottle.
- Use a sweeper mop with reusable “Sweeper” pads from Juniperseed Mercantile.
- Ditch even more plastic with a wooden toilet brush and stand.
- Marley’s Monsters makes 100 percent cotton “unpaper towels” for cleaning that will cut back on your paper towel usage.
- Repurpose damaged clothing, like old sweatshirts, into rags for cleaning.
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