Numbers, Tips and Unclogging the Green Way
Compilation/Research by Jathy Garcia of Hi-Tech Plumbing
Green Bathrooms: By the Numbers
- 26 percent: Household water use that comes from flushing the toilet.
- 21 percent: Household water use that comes from the shower.
- 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.
Top Green Bathroom Tips
- Don’t Let So Much Water Down the Drain
There are a trifecta of water-saving opportunities in the bathroom. By installing a low-flow showerhead, a low-flow faucet aerator, and a dual-flush toilet, you’ll save thousands of gallons of water each year. The first two are easy DIY jobs—learn how to install a low-flow faucet here—and a toilet can be done with a little homework. To really go for the gusto, and go for a water-free toilet, check in to composting toilets (get the details in the Getting Techie section).
- Flush the Toilet with Care
When it comes to using the toilets themselves, be sure you’re reaching for toilet paper created from recycled sources—remember, rolling over is better than rolling under—and avoid using products made from virgin boreal forest trees. The Natural Resources Defense Council has a solid list of recycled paper sources, so you aren’t literally flushing virgin trees down the toilet. And when it comes time to flush, close the lid before hitting the button to prevent the spread of bacteria around your bathroom. Ready for the next step? Install a dual-flush toilet or dual-flush retrofit on your current toilet.
- Ditch Those Disposables
Toilet paper is about the only “disposable” product allowed in your green bathroom, so when it comes time to clean up, avoid the temptation to reach for disposable products. That means paper towels and other disposable wipes should be replaced by reusable rags or microfiber towels for mirrors, sinks, and the like; when it comes time to scrub the toilet, don’t even think about those silly disposable one-and-done toilet brushes. In the same vein, more and more cleaners are being sold in refillable containers, so you don’t have to buy so much packaging and can reuse the perfectly-good spray bottle, instead of buying a new one each time you run dry on glass cleaner.
- Think About What Goes in Your Sink
Once you have your low-flow faucet aerator installed, your behavior can also help keep water flow down. Be sure to turn off the water while you’re brushing your teeth—some dentists even recommend a dry toothbrush—and you’ll save six gallons of water each day (assuming you’re diligent about brushing twice a day). Boys: if you shave with a wet razor, put a stopper in the sink and don’t leave the water running. Half a sink-full of water will do the job.
- Clear the Air with Green Cleaners
Bathrooms are notoriously small and often poorly ventilated, so, of all the rooms in the house, this is the one that should be cleaned with green, non-toxic cleaners. Common household ingredients, like baking soda and vinegar, and a little elbow grease will do the job for most everything in the bathroom (more on that in a sec). If DIY isn’t your style, there are a bevy of green cleaners available on the market today; check out our guide for How to Go Green: Cleaners for all the details.
- Take Green Cleaning into Your Own Hands
Doing it yourself is a great way to insure that you’re going as green as possible, since you know exactly what went in to the products you’re using. A few reliable favorites: Spray surfaces that need cleaning—sinks, tubs, and toilets, for example—with diluted vinegar or lemon juice, let it sit for 30 minutes or so, give it a scrub, and your mineral stains will all but disappear. Getting lime scale or mold on your showerhead? Soak it in white vinegar (hotter is better) for an hour before rinsing it clean. And to create a great tub scrub, mix baking soda, castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s) and a few drops of your favorite essential oil—careful, a little bit goes a long way here. Follow this recipe for a non-toxic bathtub cleaner and you’ll never have to buy caustic bathtub cleaners again.
- Keep Your Skin Free and Clear with Green Personal Care Products
Anything that’s a struggle to say three times fast doesn’t belong in your bathroom, and that certainly goes for personal care products like soaps, lotions, and cosmetics. For example “anti-bacterial” soaps often include endocrine disruptors, which, in addition to breeding “supergerms” resistant to these cleaners, may be doing your body serious harm and are wreaking havoc on fish and other organisms after they escape into the water stream after you flush. That’s just one example; remember the rule goes like this: If you can’t say it, don’t use it to “clean” yourself.
- Go Green with Towels and Linens
When it comes time to dry off, towels made from materials like organic cotton and bamboo are the way to go. Conventional cotton is one of the most chemically-intensive, pesticide-laden crops on the planet—to the tune of 2 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers and 84 million pounds of pesticides each year—causing a whole laundry list of environmental health problems for those who apply the pesticides and harvest the crop—not to mention the damage done to soil, irrigation, and groundwater systems. Bamboo, in addition to being a fast-growing sustainable alternative to cotton, is also reputed to have antibacterial qualities when spun into linens.
- Shower Yourself with a Safe Curtain
If your shower has a curtain, be sure to avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic—it’s pretty nasty stuff. The production of PVC often results in creating dioxins, a group of highly toxic compounds, and, once in your home, PVC releases chemical gases and odors. Once you’re done with it, it can’t be recycled and is known to leach chemicals that can eventually make their way back into our water system. So, be on the lookout for PVC-free plastic—even places like IKEA carry them now—or go for a more permanent solution, like hemp, which is naturally resistant to mold, as long as you keep your bathroom well-ventilated. Read these tips for protecting your natural curtain, including using treatment sprays to slow down mildew, over at TreeHugger.
- Maintain Your New Green Ways
Once you go green, you’ll want to keep it that way, so remember to do regular light maintenance—unclogging drains, fixing leaky faucets, etc.—with green in mind. Check out our advice for green, non-caustic drain cleaners and leaky faucets, and be mindful of mold; click over to the Getting Techie section for more on combating the dangers of mold.
Kill That Clog the Green Way
Pouring tons of liquid chemicals down the drain or toilet to knock out a clog is just not cool. The toxic fumes pollute your home, seep into the water stream, chip away at the integrity of your pipes, and to top of it all, are super expensive (not to mention the potential call to the plumber should the voluminous glug glug glug of chemical drain openers simply not work).
An ugly clog, with its backup of swampy goop, can also be embarrassing. Plan ahead with one or more of these green solutions and keep the pain out of your drain:
- Kleer Drain Instant Drain Opener is a green-centric upgrade to the eco-friendly plunger. With its food-grade carbon dioxide propellant, a burst of air clears your pipes without the use of harsh or harmful chemicals.
- Earth Friendly Products’ Earth Enzymes use natural enzymatic action to clear and maintain free flowing drains as well as clear clogged septic tanks and cesspools. Every product of the family-owned Earth Friendly line is Greenstar Certified.
- Self-described “plumbing doctors,” Roebic Laboratories‘ K-67 Drain and Trap Cleaner is biodegradable, gentle on pipes and consists of bacteria and enzymes that will naturally dilute nasty clogs.
- DIY: Pour a handful of baking soda mixed with a half cup of vinegar down the drain, and follow it quickly with boiling water.
- Maintenance! Any good plumber will tell you that a regular regimen, including flushing drains with boiling water weekly, can help you keep them clear. Drain screens that stop clog-causing bad guys (hair, lint, etc.) from getting into your pipes are also imperative. With these green solutions, clogs don’t stand a chance.
We will continue with more “Living Green” tips in September’s edition of Around Wellington Magazine from Jathynia Garcia of Hi-Tech Plumbing.