Eco-Friendly Bathroom Tile Options

Dos, don'ts and everything you need to know for choosing the perfect bathroom tiles.

| September/October 2005


Bedrock Blazestone recycled glass tiles are hand-made.

When it comes to bathroom décor, tile isa great choice for eco-conscious folks. Made with clay, sand and water fired at a high temperature, tile is ideal for countertops, backsplashes, walls and even shower floors. For the homeowner who wants a choice (and who doesn’t?), tile comes in a rainbow of colors, sizes, and styles. These days, whatever you can imagine—whether it’s a spa-like ambiance, a cascading waterfall, or an old-world Roman bath—the right tile can bring your home-improvement dream to life.

Tile doesn’t produce gases or fumes, won’t support mold, mildew or bacterial growth, and can be maintained without using harsh chemicals. And, if your tile is made in the United States, there’s even more to love. “While American-made tile is of high quality, imported tiles are sometimes manufactured under less stringent conditions and may contain lead, chemicals, or toxic clays,” reports Andrea Rideout, a national home improvement expert and host of the CBS radio talk show Ask Andrea. “Still, most tile is safe, remarkably inexpensive, and doesn’t impact the environment.”

Green tile choices

Thanks to innovative manufacturers, some types of tile are more eco-friendly than others. In 2003, Crossville introduced its GeoStone Eco­Cycle tiles made from naturally occurring clays and minerals mined in Tennessee and neighboring states. What sets these tiles apart is the manufacturing process, which makes use of reclaimed raw materials, including dust particles collected from air-filtration and waste-water treatment facilities. Once the tiles are pressed for firing, any scraps are gathered and combined to make more tiles. Crossville even ships its tiles in easily recyclable, brown kraft paper cartons.

Other tile manufacturers including Sandhill Industries and Terra Green Ceramics use 58 to 100 percent recycled materials—mostly glass, according to Jennifer Languell, a green building consultant and president of Trifecta Construction Solutions in Naples, Florida. “The biggest benefit of recycled glass tile is that it’s made from post-consumer waste,”?Languell says “If you’ve ever wondered what happens to the bottles you recycle, they may be in your neighbor’s new kitchen or bath. These products help save the planet without compromising beauty, design, or aesthetics. And frankly, recycled glass tile is simply beautiful.”

The major drawback to recycled glass tile is cost. Some glass tiles can be ten times more expensive than their conventional counterparts. “If you’re worried about cost, consider using the recycled glass tile as an accent, mixing the pricier product with more conventional materials,” Languell suggests. “When conserving natural resources, every little bit helps.”

michelle deanne
3/14/2013 6:40:41 PM

Get your less-specialied tile from a place like ReSource, Habitat for Humanity, or other salvage stores. They also carry partial bags/boxes of mortar and grout. You will be keeping perfectly-good resources out of the landfill and saving a LOT of money. Then you can afford a few more beautiful, eco-friendly tiles. I've done 4 bathrooms this way, and the results are fabulous.

2/26/2013 2:15:02 PM

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