by Avery Mack
Key elements like low-flow faucets and showerheads, VOC-free paint, sustainable flooring and nonporous countertops form the foundation of an eco-friendly bathroom. Now let’s take a look at the softer side of green.
Start by considering the use of honeycomb window shades and double-glazed windows to keep this most intimate room comfortable year-round and reduce utility bills. Periodically letting in fresh air helps keep the room dry and reduces growth of mold, mildew and bacteria.
While the kitchen harbors the most germs in the house, the bathroom is a close second. Instead of harsh chemical cleansers, try white vinegar, a safe and economical alternative. Its acidity is effective in killing most germs. Madeleine Somerville, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, author of All You Need Is Less, uses heated vinegar misted on the shower door to remove soap scum. To achieve a shiny tub, she advises mixing one-quarter cup of baking soda, one tablespoon of natural dishwashing soap and enough water to make a paste. The baking soda also freshens the drain when the tub is rinsed. Toilet bowl ring stains can be scrubbed away with a pumice stone.
“Cleaning faucet aerators and exhaust vents on a regular basis extends equipment life, maintains efficiency and prevents minor plumbing problems,” advises Keita Turner, a New York City area interior designer. Turner has also installed dual-flush toilets that necessitate less water and upkeep. Bathroom odors are another concern. A few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball placed inside the toilet paper roll freshens the air every time the roll turns—without the plastic waste byproduct from store-bought brands.
Baking soda removes odors in the bath like it does in the fridge. Upgrade from a simple bowlful by designing a mini-Zen meditation spot using a flat, open wooden box and a doll house-sized rake. Adding a smooth rock or two for texture heightens visual appeal.
Green plants can chip in by absorbing odors, as well. Many, like the Boston fern, thrive in shower steam. Flowering plants add an inviting touch. Be sure to choose child- and pet-safe greenery. Even quick, water-saving showers eventually result in towels and washcloths destined for the laundry. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute suggests that towels can be used up to four times before washing if they are hung to dry between showers, reducing both water and energy usage.
To avoid spreading germs, personalize towels and washcloths for each child by color or marking with an initial or colored dot. Organic cotton towels are eco-friendly, comfy and widely available, as are organic cotton bath mats. For the crafty, make a mat from recycled towels or upgrade to a foot-massaging mat made from recycled wine corks.
On special occasions when a soothing bath is called for, add a whimsical touch with Mr. Green, the world’s first rubber duck made in the U.S. from environmentally friendly, recycled and recyclable material. “Recycled materials call for different sculpting and molds, so designing Mr. Green was the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” says Craig Wolfe, president of CelebriDucks, in San Rafael, California. It’s a fun way to remind kids about going green while they spend a few extra minutes getting clean.
To indulge in post-shower personal pampering, consider health-enhancing coconut oil for head-to-toe moisturizing. As a hair treatment, coconut oil blocks protein loss and reduces frizz. Make a home exfoliating sugar scrub by combining one-half cup of virgin coconut oil, one cup of organic sugar and 20 drops of lime or another essential oil to gently scrub away dry winter skin. Dry skin and ragged cuticles also benefit from whipped coconut oil. Its anti-fungal properties help keep toenails healthy and sandal-ready.
Goat’s milk soap can reduce symptoms of dry skin, eczema and psoriasis. Its alpha-hydroxy acids remove dead skin cells. Add honey as a natural anti-bacterial boost. Mixing in colloidal oatmeal produces a gentle exfoliator.
Let the next upgrade of the bathroom be of a more personal nature aligned with our core values of being good to our family and our home planet.
Avery Mack is a freelance writer in St. Louis, MO. Connect via AveryMack@mindspring.com.