8 Tips for a Luxurious, Eco-Friendly Master Bathroom Remodel
The residential bathroom is perhaps the latest frontier of luxury wellness, with more people adopting clean beauty products, aromatherapy practices, gua sha and more at home. While we often think about wellness in a bodily perspective—eating clean, detoxifying, exercising, cleansing—the physical space around us may fall by the wayside. However, today’s eco-friendly bathrooms are high-tech, luxurious and a clear complement to any wellness-focused lifestyle.
Remodeling the bathroom is a great time to consider how to enhance the health and comfort of a home, which naturally leads to making the space more ecologically friendly as well. With a little planning, a new bathroom could offer an updated look, more luxurious wellness tools and better control over water and energy use. Read on for a few ways to get started.
1. Turn toward light and fresh air.
If possible, introduce natural light into the bathroom by incorporating large windows or even skylights. The additional natural light may help save on electricity and, as an added bonus, natural light, which helps the eye see color in its truest form, may provide a natural mood boost, make personal grooming easier (no one likes applying makeup in the dark) and complement your design color palette. Windows and open-air skylights also provide ample opportunity for increased ventilation, preventing the kind of trapped humidity that triggers mold and mildew growth. By opening windows or installing an energy efficient ventilation fan, you can air out the room and save on energy costs while you’re at it.
If you can’t fit natural light into the bathroom, LED lighting in a soft, natural white is a smart, eco-friendly choice to illuminate the room, saving up to 90% of the energy expended by old-fashioned bulbs and lasting 40 times longer than incandescent lights.
2. Invest in the shower for a sustainable everyday wellness routine.
Many bathtubs require about 70-80 gallons of water, and higher-end, freestanding tubs can often surpass 100 gallons. A five-minute shower, however, uses only about 10 to 25 gallons of water. But while that five-minute shower is more resource efficient, it doesn’t exactly offer the same relaxing or therapeutic effects of a warm soak. For a green alternative, consider the steam shower, which offers ample relaxation and health benefits with a fraction of the water use.
A typical 15-minute steam shower consumes just two gallons of water but offers the comforting heat, rest and a natural way to soothe nasal passages and airways. For an enhanced therapeutic experience, homeowners can try the built-in AromaTherapy or ChromaTherapy packages with their steam shower, which offer soothing or energizing scents and colors while steaming. And since it’s more efficient than a bath, the ritual can be easily incorporated into daily morning and evening routines.
Additionally, to ensure the shower is as green as it is cleansing, consider upgrading the shower head. An aerating shower head offers a powerful shower spray while reducing both water flow and energy consumption. Aerators can also be added to existing the shower head. Or you might want to try a laminar-flow shower head, which separates the flow into individual streams.
3. Update your toilet.
A typical older toilet flushes gallons of water per flush. Without sacrificing function, modern toilets may use considerably less water with low-flow and dual flush systems, which give homeowners the choice of using more or less water, depending on the waste being disposed. Some of these toilet choices include vacuum technology, which reduces water usage even more due to the force of the flush.
Additionally, bidets or electric bidet add-ons can help reduce use of toilet paper, a product that requires the use of trees and many gallons of water to make. Bidets offer gentle cleansing each time the toilet is used and some even have a dryer to complete the process.
4. Use your water waste.
One room’s trash could be another’s treasure. Consider putting in a reuse system that collects used water from sinks, dishwashers, washing machines and showers. The subsequent “greywater” collected is filtered adequately to be used for flushing the toilet or watering the lawn and garden.
5. Turn up the heat.
Better technology often means better use of resources with better outcomes. The US Energy Information Administration says that nearly a fifth of the power you expend in a home goes to heating water. Older model water heaters store gallons of pre-heated water, just waiting for you to turn on the tap – noticeably these may also run out of water in the middle of a shower or bath. But many newer models help homeowners conserve while keeping the water hot. Look for the EPA’s Energy Star label on any water heaters, including:
- A heat pump water heater, which uses heat from the air to warm the refrigerant that turns your water hot.
- A tankless water heater, which heats only the water you use.
- A condensing storage water heater, which requires less energy to heat the water.
- A solar powered hot water system, which, if you live in the right climate, is a no-brainer.
6. Look for high quality furniture.
Many vanities and cabinets use plywood, particle board and pressed wood. While big box stores and online retailers are offering higher design concepts at cheaper prices, the truth is that their products aren’t made with longevity in mind. The result requires more tree harvests to create new products to replace the old ones, which often can’t be sold and end up in the garbage. While shopping for a new vanity, look at strong, durable materials in real woods, stones, metals or reclaimed materials that will last a lifetime (and retain a resale value if you outgrow the look).
If you’re choosing wood, check for certification by the Forest Stewardship Council, as they guarantee wood that has been sourced and produced sustainably. In addition, there are stylish recycled glass, concrete, steel, tile, wood and even paper countertops to complete your look.
7. Choose sustainably-sourced wall and floor materials.
There are a lot of eco-friendly choices for both walls and floors, but longevity and durability are critical in creating an eco-friendlier bathroom. Whichever flooring you select, it needs to be able to withstand years of dampness, spills and cosmetic stains. Installing skid-proof natural linoleum, which is durable and water-resistant, is a good example of how to combat these.
Recycled-content tile such as terrazzo, made up from chips of marble, quartz and other reclaimed materials are terrific options for both walls and floors. Or consider tiles from recycled wood and Ivory Palm made from Tagua, also known as vegetable ivory. If your budget is expansive, you might opt for natural stone or marble.
Other good options include bamboo, cork and concrete. Glass tile is a great option as well because it can be 100% recycled, naturally resists stains and mold, and is found in a range of hues that will make any bathroom look fashionable and fresh.
If you are painting the walls, make sure you use VOC-free paints. VOCs are volatile organic compounds, chemicals emitted as gasses from both artificial and natural products. And if you want to use wallpaper, consider PVC-free, heavy metal-free, VOC-free options made from recycled material.
8. Complete the eco-friendly renovation with décor.
Once your eco-friendly bathroom remodel is complete, you’ll want to employ “green” accessories and cleaning supplies to maintain environmental consciousness. Make sure home cleaners don’t contain harsh chemicals, and for more frequent cleaning routines, you won’t need to resort to overly-strong compounds.
Consider organic cotton for all those soft touches – bathmats, washcloths and towels. And even your toothbrushes, soap dispensers and toothbrush holders can be found in bamboo, an all-natural, sustainable material.
Eco-friendly doesn’t have to mean Spartan. With better technology and design, it often comes alongside luxury and perfectly complements a healthy, wellness-focused lifestyle.
Looking for more renovation ideas? Check out 3 Ways to Renovate Bathrooms for Longevity.