While considering how I dress more sustainably and how I can reduce the trash created in our household, I wanted to find a solution for our bathroom. In particular, how to create an eco-friendly shower. By this, I mean:
reducing the amount of water that is being used with a water-saving shower head
softening the water by potentially adding a filter
use eco-friendly shower curtains
perhaps even reuse the water
have a water heater that harvests sunlight
replace all plastic items with sustainable ones.
These are all important aspects of living a more sustainable life. To give you some background information. We live in Mexico, which is pretty much a desert here, and it hurts me every time we flush the toilet, so low-flow toilets will be the next big challenge.
Nevertheless, I started digging more into Earthships by Michael Reynolds. I have been interested in this building for many years now, and I feel we are soon ready to build our own.
An Earthship is a building that covers all 6 human needs, shelter, food, water heating, no waste creation, and even using materials such as tires and bottles to build with. But more about that in another article.
What is the most eco-friendly shower?
The most eco-friendly shower is a shower that uses little water with the installation of a water-saving shower head and solar heat, whilst providing you with enough water flow to allow for a good body wash. In some cases, you may even be able to collect the shower water and use it for watering plants or in the toilet.
Did you know that the average person in America showers 8.2min and uses around 17.2 gallons or 65.11 liters of water?
Seems like a lot? That’s what I thought hence I try to reduce my shower time to minimize water usage.
To further reduce my environmental impact I only use eco-friendly products in our bathroom with no harmful chemicals.
Find a water-reducing shower head.
Yes, plenty of different models out there that suit every budget. But I am the kind of guy that goes for something exclusive and well-designed. So my top pick is the Nebia by Moen.
This shower head is created by a former tesla employee and has some really interesting features. Apart from saving and reducing the water that normally flows out of your shower head by 40%, this looks like a well-designed and beautiful device that makes you want to shower.
What if my water is hard or soft?
Some places have so-called hard or soft water. This means that your water has a lot of minerals and can make it difficult for your pipes and shower heads to perform by clocking them up over time, or it has a low count of minerals.
Water becomes hard when it has a higher concentration of calcium and magnesium.
Soft water is the opposite, like rainwater that hasn’t yet flown through rivers, where it can pick up the minerals from rocks and soil.
Both are safe to drink, but what about that milestone residue on your faucet?
Why would you want to ensure your water isn’t too hard or too soft?
You are probably aware that your skin is your body’s biggest organ. And since whatever you put on your skin gets absorbed quickly into your bloodstream, it only makes sense to shower with good water.
Water takes a long way until it gets to your home, and sometimes, depending on the age of your pipes, it can pick up contaminants from your home pipes. Lead and copper can leach into your water, cause undesired smells and, in some cases, even pose serious health risks.
Hard water can also prevent your shampoo from lathering properly. It won’t give you that shiny clean hair feeling since it reacts with the minerals in the water, leaving a residue in your hair.
This can also lead to skin issues and flares. The minerals can clog up your pores and dry out your skin.
I found the best way to address this problem is by getting a shower water filter. Again there are numerous different brands and different types of filters. So I went for the simple, fairly cheap option installed between the shower head and outlet.
You can skip this step if you already have installed a home water filtration system.
Use eco-friendly shower curtains.
If you are surprised, then we are on the same bandwagon. I was also surprised to learn that our shower curtain can release chemicals we do not want to inhale or have in our shower. According to HealthUSNews, our curtains may be bad for us, releasing chemicals like perfluorochemicals, formaldehyde, and antimony, especially when hot.
While many brands have created eco-friendly shower curtains made from organic cotton like Parachute and the citizenry, we have a glass door in our shower, so there is no need for a curtain.
But if you want to find some eco-friendly curtains for your shower, check out this article here.
What about reusing your shower water?
I get it if this sounds too far-fetched, but let me tell you. The Earthship takes this into account, and your water used for showering may now contain some soaps which is being filtered by plants that grow food inside your house. If that isn’t a cool way to reuse your water, I don’t know what is.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most homeowners or people living in apartments. Often your shower water just runs down the drain and ends up in a water treatment plant where it gets cleaned and sent back into our water system.
However, there is a company called Ecoviewater that makes a product called Aqualoop. And just like the name says, it is collecting your greywater (used shower or dishwater) in a tank that can filter and reuse it. This requires you to install a tank and run your plumbing into it. Sure this may sound like a lot of work, but since water is becoming more and more of a problem, you may consider installing something like this in your house.
Of course, you could place a bucket between your legs and collect some of the shower water this way. Still, it isn’t most certainly the most efficient, or comfortable way to do so.
Alternatively, you could place a second floor, like a cedar base, into your shower and close your main drain off to convert the water to a different collection tank.
Let’s have hot showers
Hot showers are the best. Getting out of your comfortable bed and jumping under the shower is a nice way to wake up. And most of us like it hot unless you like to challenge yourself and have cold showers like me.
I mainly do it because of the health benefits that a cold shower has. Since our immune system has been under attack for a while now, it is even more important to me to keep my immune system strong; cold showers can help with that.
Benefits of cold showers.
reduce inflammation and stress
strengthen your immune system
tighten your skin
improve your hair
gain more willpower, and so on
But you are here not to learn how to become a superman or woman, you are here to become a zerowasteman or woman.
Usually, your home has a water heater in the basement or hidden away. These water heaters take up a lot of electricity to keep your water hot. Instead, you could use the sun’s heat to warm up your water for the shower or bath or your dishes.
This obviously works much better if you already live in a hot country where you get enough sunlight to install a hot water unit or a solar hot water system on your roof. In Australia, in my previous home, nearly every house has one of these on its roof.
You have probably seen those black plastic shower bags when you go camping. This is basically the same principle. It is harvesting sunlight to warm up your water.
You can check with your government if there is a scheme going to support this installment on your roof. And you also need to check with a professional if you can even install it, depending on the orientation of your roof.
We have come all the way from having an eco-friendly shower to installing something on your roof.
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Let’s sum it up!
Suppose you live in a small apartment or aren’t allowed to modify your house because of rental agreements. In that case, your best bet is to replace the standard shower head with a water-saving one to conserve water and also you could try and set a timer to reduce the time you spend in the shower.
To make your bathroom even more environmentally friendly, you absolutely want to replace your shampoo plastic bottles with shampoo bars. Use bamboo toothbrushes and opt in for safety razors. These are some really simple steps everyone can do.
If you want to find out which shampoo bars to get check out this article. Other swaps you can take to create an eco-friendly bathroom are in this post here.
The more advanced steps are getting a water tank installed to collect your greywater. Now, this can be done by fitting it in the basement or the garage.
Additionally, you could go and get some solar hot water installed on your roof.
But isn’t this all going to cost a lot of money?
Here is the truth, you have to buy certain things up front like the hot water heater mentioned or a tank and your water-saving shower head. But over time it will actually start saving you money and reducing how much water you use. The Nebia showerhead cuts your water consumption by 70%.
If you install a hot water system, you are also going to save on your electricity bill, since you are using sunlight to do the job. Yes, there is an initial setup cost and it may take a year or two before you see the savings but not only are you doing the environment and the planet a favor but also your pocket and health.