Brush up your bathroom sustainability with these five quick, low- or no-cost tricks.
1. Down the Drain: Common drain cleaners contain lye, hydrochloric acid and trichloroethane—toxins that corrode plumbing and linger in the water supply. For a safe alternative, try a natural version such as Drainbo or use this easy method: Pour ¼ cup baking soda down the drain followed by ½ cup vinegar. Cover tightly until the bubbling stops and flush with a gallon of boiling water. Repeat if necessary.
2. Blow Off Steam: Bathroom fans remove moisture, decreasing humidity and the chance of mold. However, most people don’t run them long enough to be effective. Turn on the fan before you shower and let it run at least 20 minutes after you’re done.
3. Down a Notch: Hot water heaters use nearly 20 percent of the average home’s energy—second to heating and cooling for highest household energy use. Most manufacturers preset hot water heaters at 140 degrees. Reducing water temperature by 10 degrees saves 3 to 5 percent in energy costs. In most cases 120 degrees (or even less) is perfectly comfortable.
4. Tank Tune-Up: In the U.S., we flush about 5.5 billion gallons of clean water down the toilet every day. Toilets made before 1990 use an average of 3.5 gallons with every flush (low-flow models use as little as .8). But you don’t have to replace your toilet to save. Retrofit old toilets with inexpensive adapters such as the Select a Flush dual flush toilet kit, or opt for this free fix to save ½ gallon per flush: Fill an empty 2-liter bottle three-quarters full with sand or stones; fill the rest with water and place it in the tank as far from the valve as possible.
5. On a Roll: According to Greenpeace, Americans could save more than 400,000 trees if each family bought a roll of recycled toilet paper—just once. Download Greenpeace’s handy mobile phone app, which ranks brands according to recycled content and toxic compounds, or print a PDF. High scorers include Green Forest; 365; Natural Value; and Seventh Generation.