Ceramic tile is the go-to choice for bathroom renovations because it's affordable and widely available in a variety of colors and patterns, but it's not necessarily the greenest option out there. Its production requires a lot of energy; since ceramic tile is made from clay, it must be fired under extreme temperatures, from 2200 - 2700ºF, and often it is glazed and fired again. Consider these affordable and green alternatives to ceramic tile for your bathroom renovation.
Recycled Glass Tile
Glass from bottles and other trash that would otherwise be banished to the landfill can be melted down and formed into beautiful recycled glass tiles. Use recycled glass tiles anywhere that you would use ceramic: your floor, walls, counter and backsplash. They are available in a variety of sizes and shapes from modern, elongated tiles to tiny mosaics. Recycled glass tiles are also available in a wide range of colors and finishes, from clear to opaque and pearly to iridescent. Manufacturers include Sandhill Industries, Bedrock Industries and Aurora Glass.
Cork, Wood and Bamboo Flooring
While wood and water don't sound like a good combination, there are many environmentally friendly bathroom flooring options that are up for the challenge (though it's not a bad idea to use bath mats, just in case). Cork, wood and bamboo lend warmth to the cold surfaces in your bathroom and are eco-friendly alternatives to ceramic tile.
Not only is bamboo flooring attractive, but it is made from a rapidly renewable resource. Since bamboo grows in tropical environments, it is naturally moisture-resistant and also very durable. However, standards vary widely between bamboo flooring manufacturers, so do your research before you buy to be sure you're getting the greenest product possible.
FSC Certified and Reclaimed Wood
Wood floors are classic, and they might make sense for your bathroom if they have also been installed throughout the rest of your home. When purchasing new wood floors, look for those with the FSC label, which signifies that they've been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The FSC ensures that its flooring manufacturers practice environmentally responsible forestry.
If you like the rustic look, consider purchasing reclaimed wood for your bathroom floor. Wood is salvaged from building demolitions and can be reused in new homes and renovation projects. This aged wood often exhibits a beautiful patina, and serving a second life as your bathroom floor keeps it out of a landfill and prevents cutting down new trees.
Cork flooring has gained popularity in past years and is a very eco-friendly flooring option. Bark is harvested from cork oak trees without damaging them. In fact, they regenerate the bark and it can be harvested again in a few years. Though bottle stoppers are typically made from cork, the remaining cork is used to make flooring material, so the manufacturing process doesn't generate waste. Cork is extremely resilient and makes for a comfortable flooring option that 'gives' under your feet. It also offers excellent sound absorption, which is ideal considering all the hard, echo-y surfaces in a bathroom. Cork should be properly sealed to protect it from mold or mildew.
Eco-Friendly Ceramic Tiles
If you can't imagine using any other material in your bath besides ceramic tile, at least opt for one of the new eco-friendly versions. Several manufacturers create ceramic tile made from 40% to 60% recycled content, making them a smarter choice than standard ceramic tiles: