Going Green in the Bathroom

Giving your home a green makeover isn't as hard as it sounds, and a great place to start is in one of the smallest rooms in your house - the bathroom. This small space packs a big punch when it comes to the use of natural resources and chemical pollutants. A few small steps can make a big impact, so read on . Hardware: The single most important thing that you can do to make your bathroom greener is to install a low-flow shower head and limit your showers to no more than 10 minutes. Showers use less water than baths, but they are still the single largest cause of water use in the home.

There are many low-flow shower heads that are easy to find and just as strong as regular shower heads and can reduce water usage by up to 50%. In addition to saving water, by using a low-flow shower head you will also reduce your energy use, as it takes less energy to heat the water flowing. If you have the opportunity or need to replace your toilet, purchase a low-flow or dual-flow option toilet, which allows you to select how much flushing is necessary.

Given the hundreds of gallons of water that we literally flush down the toilet Cleaners: Many hazardous chemicals are found in people's bathrooms. These chemicals are found in common bathroom cleaners like soap scum remover, toilet cleaner, and window and glass cleaners, and are dangerous if you have children or pets in the house. They can also harm your septic system and filter through wastewater treatment plants to the ocean. Surprised? Every year, scientists find more household chemicals in the ocean. These chemicals affect the ocean ecosystem and thus the health of the millions of plants and animals who live there. Common cleaners also create ecological impacts when they are made, and their plastic packaging can remain on Earth for hundreds of years.

Instead, opt for one of the ecological cleaners that get rid of your soap scum without harming the environment. These cleaners feature statements including: non-toxic and biodegradable, no chlorine, no petroleum-based solvents, no glycol ethers, and not tested on animals. Paper Products: The most commonly used paper product in the bathroom is, of course, toilet tissue.

This innocuous-seeming product actually has many problems. First, toilet tissue made from virgin trees (i.e.

not recycled content) means that we are cutting down forests for the sake of our toilets. Second, most toilet tissue is treated with chemicals and dyes that are not safe for our septic systems, nor good for the ecosystems that are downstream from our toilets. Finally, creating toilet tissue uses a lot of water and energy. If every U.S. household replaced on 12-pack of 400-sheet virgin-fiber bathroom tissue with 100% recycled tissue, we would save 1.

7 billion gallons of water. Look for toilet tissue that is made, at least partially, of recycled content. Also seek tissue that is whitened without chlorine bleach, is free of dyes, inks and fragrances. Towels: There are two great fiber alternatives that are much better on the environment and don't cost much more than standard cotton products.

Organically-grown cotton means that growing the cotton does not require chemicals and insecticides that impact the ecosystem. A good alternative to cotton is, surprisingly, bamboo. Bamboo fibers make fibers that are incredibly soft and silky.

In fact, many people choose bamboo towels based on touch alone, without even realizing they are choosing a sustainable fabric. Bamboo is a fast-growing plant that grows without pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals. It does not destroy natural forests or take an undue toll on the Earth, thus making it an excellent option for eco-conscious consumers. Personal Care: All those toiletries that fill your shower, cabinets and drawers can take a serious toll on the environment. The chemicals used in most cosmetics and toiletries range from toxic to dangerous, and everything in between.

Some major things to look out for include shampoos and conditioners containing petroleum products, hair dyes with carcinogenic coal tar, deodorants containing aluminum, hairsprays and hair gels containing petroleum derivatives, formaldehyde, phthalates and synthetic fragrance. It is also a good idea to seek products not tested on animals. Not only does this mean that you are not testing your ethics, but often products with the Humane Cosmetics Standard (HCS) label also happen to meet the above criteria and are therefore better choices overall. Copyright (c) 2008 Virginia Ginsburg.

Virginia Ginsburg is an expert on green living and socially-conscious investing. In addition to writing about sustainable products, she runs Green Baby Gifts , which provides ready-to-go, beautiful gifts for new babies.

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