Concern for our planet has grown significantly in the past few years. From films like An Inconvenient Truth, to campaigns by organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and their annual Earth Hour event, it seems that anywhere you look you can find information about our planet’s crisis. Still, many people find it difficult to practice any sort of conservation beyond taking out the recycling once a week. Most people probably assume that any change would be too difficult to manage and, therefore, simply forgo the change altogether. However, a few changes to your everyday tasks could make a great impact on the environment. The bathroom is a great place to start once you make the decision to make your home (and your life) more green-friendly. The following tips range from some minor remodeling (for those of you read to jump all in), to some simpler changes, such as swapping out various everyday items (for the more hesitant ones). Whichever tip (or tips) you choose, it is sure to make a difference for the planet.
In The Shower
This is perhaps the most obvious tip for practicing conservation in the bathroom: use less water in the shower! However, there are a few different ways to do this; whichever one is best for you will probably depend on how much money you are willing to spend. First, is the easiest and cheapest solution: Creating a “shower playlist” on your iPod or MP3 player. And it is just as simple as that: Make a playlist that is roughly 5-10 minutes long, and when it stops, you stop the water. Now, in truth, this one does require that you stick to your end of the deal (that is, actually switching off the water when you are supposed to). But, if you just remember which song is last, then when it starts playing, you can know to speed up your lathering and rinsing so that you can finish in time.
Another key to this tip is to start the music when you start the water, not when you get in the shower. It pretty much defeats the purpose of water conservation if you let the shower run for ten minutes and then proceed to take a ten minute shower as well.
But, maybe you need a little help making sure that you get out of the shower after your time is up. If that’s the case, then a product like this shower head could be great for you. It is called the Shower Manager, and that is exactly what it does. You can choose to set it to a 5, 8, or 11 minute shower time; once your time is up, it shuts off. Now, it is true that they can be kind of pricey (the price for one is over $100), but depending on your previous shower times and the time you choose to set your Shower Manager to, it can save you anywhere from $150 to over $700 a year (this also depends on whether you use gas or electric to heat your water). It also features a “warning” in the form of a reduction in water flow, to let you know that your time is almost up.
Of course, you may be a person who already takes 10 minute showers, so you don’t feel the need for a timer of any sort, but you would still like to reduce your water usage somehow. This shower head allows you to save half a gallon each minute; that’s 5 gallons each time you shower! My husband and I own this shower head and we love it. It is called the EcoRain and it is made by Waterpik. On its regular setting it has a rain-like flow (hence the name), but you can also opt for a more centralized flow, resulting in more water pressure. It installs easily and is significantly cheaper than the Shower Manager, making it a great choice is you can’t afford to pay too much but would still like to make a difference.
At The Sink
You can also reduce your water usage at the sink in a few different ways. The first (and most common) is to turn off the faucet while you are brushing your teeth! Take your time to focus on getting your mouth clean and only turn the water on when you need it. You can also turn off the water while you wash your hands. Simply pump some soap into your palm, wet your hands, then shut off the water while you lather and scrub. You can then use your elbow or wrist to turn the water back on when you are ready to rinse off your hands. Both of these tips also help to encourage better cleaning habits by giving you more time to focus on really scrubbing. An even better tip when it comes to hand washing is to forget the water altogether! By using an eco-friendly, waterless hand sanitizer (like these made by CleanWell), you can drastically cut down on your daily water usage, while also using a planet-friendly product. But, maybe you want something more drastic and major than simply switching off the faucet. Maybe you want to be able to help the planet even when the water is running! If that’s the case, then you’re going to want to check out these water-saving faucets by Kohler. They allow you to use less water without even having to think about it. And if you were to pair that with the other sink time tips, you’d really be making a positive change.
When Using the “Facilities”
Yes, it’s true, even when using the toilet you can be helping the planet at the same time. I’m sure a lot of you are currently cringing at the thought of not flushing as frequently. Although that would reduce your water usage, I don’t even like the thought of paying that much of a price to use a bit less water. There is another option, though I will warn you that it isn’t cheap. However, it will help you to save on water usage without having to let anything “mellow” just because it’s “yellow”. These water saving toilets (also from Kohler) are clearly not to cheapest option when it comes to saving the planet from your bathroom, but they do help you to use a lot less water, once again, without having to think about it. Just use them as you ordinarily would, and they take care of the environment for you!
The Products You Use
There is, quite literally, an ecologically sound alternative for each everyday product that we use. By switching out the ones in your bathroom, you can help make sure that whatever is getting rinsed down your drains or thrown out with your trash is eco-friendly, as was the way in which it was produced. For your paper products, Seventh Generation is an excellent choice. I use their toilet paper (shown here), and no, it doesn’t feel like cardboard or the paper you pull out of a new pair of tennis shoes. It works just as well and a person could want it to and is becoming available at nearly every major store. Seventh Generation is also a good source for cleaning products (which get washed down your drains, so the fewer chemicals, the better), as well as feminine products. I’ve used their feminine products for over 2 years now and I’ve never had any complaints. Other products that you could switch out include all of your body care items. I’m talking toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, soap, everything! Switching to brands like Nature’s Gate or Tom’s of Maine is a simple way to not only support companies that are good for our planet, but to use products that are good for your as well. I am a fan of the lotion, hair care, and acne care from Nature’s Gate. As for Tom’s of Maine, I love their toothpaste and their deodorant.
Your Electricity Usage
There are two simple ways to reduce your electricity usage in the bathroom: Switching out and switching off. By switching out old lightbulbs for compact fluorescent lightbulbs (also known as CFLs) you can greatly reduce your energy usage each time you flip a light switch. While it is true that CFLs generally cost more than incandescent bulbs, the amount of energy you save and the good it does for the planet is well worth it. You can also help the planet by switching off any electrical devices you may use in the bathroom, whether it is an iPod docking station, a flat-iron, or an electric toothbrush charger. Only plug in any music sources right when you need them, and before to turn them off and unplug them. As for flat-irons and other hair styling tools, stay in the room when you are waiting on it to heat up, that ways, as soon as it is ready, you can use it and be done without wasting energy. And for any items that use a charger (such as electric toothbrushes or razors), most have an indicator light to let you know when they are fully charged. Once you notice that it is well juiced up, remove it from the charger and unplug it, otherwise you are just using up electricity for no purpose.
I hope you found these tips to be helpful. I know some are pricier and more complicated than others, but they key to take it one step at a time. Few people can jump into change all at once and be okay with it. Just take baby steps: Try switching out lightbulbs today, then maybe next week you can start timing your showers. Eventually, these “changes” won’t seem like a change at all. Instead, they will become habits, and so will helping the planet.