Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Improve your green credentials in the bathroom

According to Defra.gov.uk, we use 150 litres of water per person, per day, in England - compared with the German average of 127 litres. Across Europe as a whole, water usage is about 20 litres less than in the UK.

If it’s old, then your bathroom is unlikely to be fitted with any water saving technology. Your toilet could be using thirteen gallons per flush, and if it was fitted before 1991 it will be using at least nine litres per flush. Toilets installed between 1991 and 2001 are likely to use approx 7.5 litres per flush, while a modern (post 2001) toilet uses six litres as standard.

A ‘toilet Hippo’ installed in your toilet cistern can reduce wasted water by up to three litres on each flush, helping you to save money as well as water. And if your bathroom is due for renovation, remember that a modern dual flush toilet will use a maximum of six litres per flush on its long flush option and only around two litres on a short flush.

In addition, the government recommends that we each try to ensure we shower for no more than five minutes per day, to conserve water. But what if you could still save water without compromising on the occasional luxurious, stress-busting ten minutes plus? Try fitting your shower with a ‘low-flow’ shower head. There are two types: aerating and non-aerating. A non-aerating head has smaller holes, restricting the flow of water and producing a hard, massaging spray; an aerating head mixes air with the water for a softer, bubblier shower.

And it’s not just water saving that should be of interest to us. All of our natural resources should be conserved where possible. So if you’re serious about living a green lifestyle, any bathroom renovation that you consider should incorporate the use of sustainable materials in bathroom furniture and flooring, and you should also try to incorporate recycled pieces where possible.

This could mean opting for new bathroom furniture made from sustainable materials such as bamboo, or it could mean recycling or repurposing.

Websites such as Freecycle are a great resource: things that other people don’t want any more are not necessarily rubbish, and you could pick up some gems. The same goes for larger charity shops, where you can often find items of furniture. Keep an eye out for second hand bathroom items such as freestanding baths and washstands, or cupboards which could be pressed into service as bathroom cabinets or storage units. Almost anything you need, including wall and floor tiles, can be bought second hand or salvaged: an eclectic room scheme will use the variability inherent in this kind of product sourcing to its advantage.

Think laterally, too, about non-bathroom items (such as tables and chests of drawers) which could be given a new lease of life in your bathroom. It doesn’t take much effort to give an old set of drawers a sanding down, a coat of wood stain or a lick of paint, and fit it with a vessel basin and bathroom tap, but this will give you a unique vanity unit, designed to your personal specifications, for your bathroom.

Then there’s flooring. Using sustainable materials here can be a fabulous idea: cork is naturally resistant to rotting, is warm underfoot, and is sustainably produced - mature trees are harvested and left to grow, rather than being felled and re-planted like wood-producing forests. Bamboo flooring is similar to solid wood in both appearance and aftercare requirements, but is fast growing, meaning that stocks can be replenished almost as quickly as they’re used.  

Finally, make sure that you dispose responsibly of your old bathroom items: recycle or reuse elsewhere if you can, and consider donating your sanitaryware or bathroom furniture through Freecycle or your local charity furniture shop to benefit someone else’s green bathroom renovation.

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