It may be one of the smallest rooms in the house, but the bathroom is one of the least sustainable.
Heavy water usage, endless rolls of toilet roll and harsh chemicals all have an impact on the planet.
But there are easy ways to improve, and some of them might save you time and money at the same time.
Read on ahead for our easy hacks to make your bathroom more eco-friendly.
Remember the 3Ps
The 3Ps may not be as well-known as the 3Rs but they are important.
The letters stand for pee, poo and paper, the only things you should ever flush away. Nothing else should go down the loo: no wipes, sanitary pads, condoms or ear buds.
Even if packaging says they are flushable, they can create costly blockages and be harmful to wildlife.
Top tip: Swap to more sustainable toilet roll. Look out for recycled paper or bamboo, which grows faster than trees and is therefore quicker to replace.
Follow the 3Rs
Reduce, reuse, recycle applies in the bathroom as much as elsewhere in the home.
Reduce by eliminating as much plastic packaging as possible. ‘Don’t try to change everything at once,’ says Tessa Wardley. ‘Put all your bottles of products in a big box and take out just those you need as you use them. You may find you only need half of them.
‘As each product runs out replace it with a plastic-free alternative — this way you’re not wasting the products you already have and not replacing everything at once, making it gentler on the environment and on your cash flow.’ Reuse by switching from single use to multi-use equivalents. Think face cloths instead of wipes, washable pads instead of cotton wool and tubs of face mask instead of packets. In the long run, you’ll save money as well.
Finally, the national campaign group Recycle Now has helpful hacks for getting into better bathroom recycling habits. Suggestions include popping empties onto the landing so you can take them straight to the recycling bin when you go downstairs.
Top tip: Take your empty medication blister packs to Superdrug for specialist recycling.
Wiser with water
Households on meters use 129 litres of water per person per day and those without use 171 litres, but there’s plenty we can do to lower this figure, whether we pay for what we consume directly or simply want to reduce our environmental footprint.
The Wildlife Trusts offers striking stats to support classic water-saving tips such as shower rather than bathe (‘An average bath uses around 80 litres of water, but a shower typically uses between six and 45 litres’) and turn the tap off when brushing your teeth (‘A running tap can waste more than six litres of water a minute’).
‘A dripping tap can waste 15 litres of water a day,” continues the nature charity. Not sure how to fix one? Wickes has a useful guide on its website.
Suspect it’s your cistern that’s leaking? ‘Put a few drops of food colouring in the top of the toilet,’ advises Kezia Neusch, low-waste expert and author of Home: Easy Tips For Everyday Sustainable Living (Ebury Press, 2020).
‘It should only get into the toilet bowl when you flush. If it is leaking, you’ll see it in the bowl without flushing.’
If you’re handy around the house, the Wildlife Trusts suggests you ‘install water-efficient taps and showers to minimise heating water — this will save you money on your water and energy bills, as well as decreasing your carbon footprint.’ There are easy ways to reduce water consumption when flushing the toilet, too. ‘Purchase a water-efficient toilet (one with a dual flush),’ says the Wildlife Trusts. ‘Or go by the old saying, “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down!”’
The organisation’s final tip is to ‘Get a cistern displacement device to save up to 5,000 litres of water every year. They are free from most water companies.’ Check out the other free resources offered by your water supplier at the same time. These can range from low-flow shower heads to hourglasses to encourage shorter showers.
Top tip: Attempt the Waterwise Shower Challenge. Follow the campaign group’s playlist on Spotify and see if you can keep your shower to the length of a single song.
Careful with chemicals
Whatever goes down the drain in your bathroom enters the sewerage system for treatment.
‘Once solids are removed and the sewage has been treated the effluent will ultimately be released onto land, into waterways or the sea,’ says Tessa Wardley, author of The Eco Hero Handbook: Simple Solutions To Tackle Eco-Anxiety (Quarto, 2021).
‘Avoid buying cleaning products if they are not biodegradable or contain toxic chemicals or phosphates which can kill off on-site treatment systems and are hard to remove at treatment plants, meaning they will end up damaging the environment.’
Less harmful products include bide’s Eco-Friendly Toilet Cleaning Bombs: drop one in the bowl and once it’s stopped fizzing, clean with a brush. Another option is Clean Living.
Top tip: Fancy making your own bathroom cleaner? Use a 50:50 mix of vinegar and water with a few drops of liquid castile soap, says Kezia Neusch, who uses the same spray for her toilet.
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