The Time Is Right
Remodeling your bathroom presents a golden opportunity to go green. You're probably planning to remove old fixtures and perhaps open up the walls anyway. It's the perfect time to consider replacing vinyl flooring with natural linoleum, putting in a water-conserving toilet and showerhead, and using low- or no-VOC paint. And that's just for starters.
New Products Make It Possible
Home improvement centers are packed with products promoting energy savings and water conservation. In addition to the obvious fixtures you'll want to upgrade, think about replacing your water heater with a tankless or solar-power system to cut your energy consumption and reduce your utility bill. Another money-saver is radiant floor heating, an incredibly comfortable way to heat a bathroom and lower your energy costs at the same time.
Where to Start?
In the bathroom, water conservation is the most important factor in making eco-friendly choices. New low-flow toilets are much improved over older models: No more double flushing. Aerator-equipped faucets are also a great option. Together, you can save many thousands of gallons of water a year.
Paint is better than wallpaper in the bathroom because moisture can get behind the paper and produce mold. Ceramic tile and natural stone are also durable choices that will seldom need replacing, saving resources in the long term.
Long-lasting and easy to clean, recycled-content ceramic tiles and natural linoleum are environmentally friendly choices. Don't use carpet in the bathroom; it traps moisture that can lead to mold growth. Natural linoleum (Marmoleum from Forbo, for example) is a sustainable material; vinyl is not.
Cabinets and Countertops
Avoid particleboard and medium-density fiberboard (MDF) in cabinets and as a base for countertops unless you can find low- or no-formaldehyde versions. Exterior-grade plywood is better, or use solid wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for sustainability.