By Suzanne Heibel, for www.Greeniacs.com
With the green movement taking over the production world, selling everything from toxin-free lamp shades to organic jeans, morphing your bathroom into an environmentally friendly zone is relatively simple. Greening your bathroom is not only good for the environment, but it is also great for your and your family’s health!
The bathroom is the space in your house to freshen up, but there is no need to use soaps that clean your body while dirtying the environment at the same time. Unless noted on the package, shampoos, conditioners, and soaps all contain chemicals that are unable to naturally breakdown, decay, and go back into the environment without being toxic. As a result they remain harmful to ecosystems. Biodegradable soap, shampoo, and other similar products are able to be broken down into organic compounds, which occurs IN THE SOIL by microorganisms, eliminating the threat of toxicity release into the environment. People who travel often use these products to reduce their footprint in other places or countries they visit, but it makes just as much sense to reduce your footprint in your community as well.
“Biodegradable” usually implies that within six months of usage the soap will have decayed to 90% water, carbon dioxide, and biomass WHEN IN SOIL, not if just dumped into a water source. Some make take years to fully breakdown, so as a consumer it is important to differentiate between “biodegradable” and “environmentally-friendly,” because the two may always not be synonymous.1 Look for ingredients that you recognize, such as vegetable-based soaps, which tend to be more organically crafted, and look for “phosphate-free” on the label as well. A good company that is not very well known is “Further Soaps,” which uses waste from biofuels and turn it into soaps. They can be found at www.furthersoap.com. You can now find biodegradable soaps, shampoos, etc. at major retailers like Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and online, in addition to your local retailers!
I know we love to recycle, but don't worry, there is no need to share a toothbrush with Great Uncle Ned, you can have your own and still be reducing waste. Recycled toothbrushes, like the Preserve® toothbrush, are not only made from recycled plastics but are also recyclable themselves.2 Plus, they are made in the United States, so for U.S.-based consumers, they are more environmentally-friendly than products from overseas because they heavily cut down on excessive transportation and petroleum use.
Lately it seems like there has been a lot of talk about the chemical Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), which is an ingredient commonly found in toothpastes and shampoos.3 SLS acts as a foaming agent but has a bad rap attached to it because it is also a chemical known to cause skin irritation. Because of this, some organizations have claimed that this chemical is responsible for causing canker sores, and even cancer, yet there is no clear evidence for these claims.4 It is also not listed on the Pesticide Action Network “Bad Actor” list, which identifies California's most toxic chemicals.5 Tom's of Maine toothpaste, a toothpaste brand known for its natural ingredients, says that SLS is naturally-occurring in coconut and palm oils (4) and they feel that it is just fine to use.6 If you are worried about the effects of SLS, Tom's also offers SLS-free products. You can visit their website at http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ for more information.
Toilet paper is a touchy subject because everyone needs it and everyone uses it for the same thing. For this subject, you only have two methods to reduce your use:
1. Buy toilet paper made from recycled paper. Most of the time it is cheaper than regular toilet paper, so for your wallet that's a plus; and the Natural Resource Defense Council reports that if every household in the U.S. replaced just a single roll of their regular toilet paper with a green brand, over 400,000 trees would be spared annually from being cut down.7 Imagine the impact if all rolls were replaced with recycled ones! Literally, entire forests would be saved.
2. The other way to make toilet paper more eco-friendly is to not use the entire roll every time you pee. This may seem like an exaggeration, but I know people who take three arm's lengths of squares for one pee. This is overkill. It only takes a few squares to stay clean and if you are worried about your hands, that is the reason your mom taught you to wash ‘em after you use the toilet. This concept has even become ingrained in pop-culture: singer Sheryl Crow's 2007 tour promoted single-square usage of toilet paper. Now that's an effective advertisement!
Cutting down water usage in the restroom is the most effective way to conserve water. That's why there is a whole article dedicated to it! To learn how to save, see the Greeniacs Article http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/How_to_Conserve_Water_in_the_Bathroom for information on this subject.
Towels, Curtains, Mats
Lets face it, shower curtains and bathroom floor mats get down right disgusting. They stay constantly moist, meaning they are prone to bacteria growth and they tend to smell bad after some time. Because of this, most people throw them away after a year or so and just replace them with another plastic curtain fated to be discarded in another year's time. They are also plastic, meaning they are derived from petroleum.
The solution is to purchase a curtains and mats that are made of fabric so they can be washed and used for longer than just a single year. Find one that is made from organic cotton because organically-grown items mean less pollution from agricultural runoff to adjacent ecosystems.
Another company called “bamboo and organic linens” (www.bambooandorganiclinens.com) incorporates bamboo into their products because the plant is actually a weed that needs very little resources to flourish, and it absorbs odors much better than cotton alone9. Hemp rugs and mats are also a popular environmental choice. Hemp is often too closely associated with Marijuna, yet hemp is a weed grown to be harvested for commercial use in fabrics or paper, not for drug use.Hemp is naturally pest-resistant so it can be grown without the use of chemical additives. Because it is a weed it can grow in very harsh conditions so only minimal water use is required for its growth10. A good place to find hemp bathroom products is at http://www.rawganique.com/.
Towels fit into this same material usage. Organic cotton and hemp are great choices, especially if you can find a local supplier, which cuts down on the shipping materials and costs.
Now you know what to do!
Although replacing plastic products made from chemicals and oil with organic products may sound cliché, it is ultimately the best decision when making your bathroom a little greener. These are the products you use daily and often so it makes sense to have your bathroom be the greenest room in the house.
For more green bathroom tips, watch www.ConsciousLivingTV.com.