September 13, 2009 in Features

Don’t flush away water, money

Green guru offers must-haves for a more efficient bathroom
Judy Hevrdejs Chicago Tribune
 
Chicago Tribune photo

Below are a few of green designer Danny Seo’s bathroom must-haves: a great toilet brush (his pick, an eco-sensible model from Quickie); a quick-dry, cotton towel (better than chamois-style options, this one is just $5.99 at JC Penney); green cleaning products (Seo’s favorites are from Method); a new low-flow shower head from Kohler; and his own Wholearth bath products collection (Wholearth-beauty.com). Chicago Tribune
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The guru of the green lifestyle is on the phone and we’re going to talk.

There’s some bathroom humor involved. But mostly we want to chat about how to green up the place where you scrub up.

Yes, Danny Seo – Mr. Born-on-Earth-Day-1977, author, columnist, TV celeb – is talking about saving water, saving face and saving money when it comes to your bathroom.

And the ideas he has are for both of you. That’s right: You who want to rip things up completely. And you who simply want to tweak the bathroom you have now.

Get water smart: If you are interested in serious remodeling, the bathroom is “one of the biggest water users in the home so it makes sense to really pay attention to devices and products that save water,” Seo says.

Right now, his obsession is the dual-flush toilet.

“Dual flush is a good investment,” says Seo, who has Kohler dual-flush toilets in his home.

“The other thing in terms of water savings is the shower head,” he says, citing shower heads that are WaterSense approved, an Environmental Protection Agency program.

“Many of us are familiar with Energy Star when it comes to appliances – this is the aquatic version of that.”

Clear the clutter: And when a major renovation is not part of the program?

Seo’s mantras: Think Zen. Cut the visual clutter. Less is more.

“If you look at a magazine or a decorating book, the bathrooms look very Zen-like because they are. It’s about being spare,” he says.

Edit the countertops, cabinets and drawers, and opt for multiuse products (a body wash and shampoo in one, perhaps?) when possible.

And about those mini bottles: “Just because the hotel toiletries are free and you can take them home with you, it doesn’t mean that you should,” Seo says.

“Most people stick it in this magical drawer and it gets more and more full, and you forget what’s in there.”

Go for a high-tech towel: Once that’s done, move on to the bathroom essentials, such as towels.

“I think a lot of us are holding onto towels that need to be thrown away,” Seo says.

Thread-bare? Out. Traces of mildewy smell? Out.

He’s a fan of 100-percent cotton “quick-dry” towels: “They have a special weave and they dry about 30 percent faster than a traditional towel.”

Also, “have a washable bath-mat or rug … and get in the habit of washing it.”

Add a little color: When it comes to decorating, think paint.

“Paint is the easiest solution,” says Seo. “What I ask people to do is choose a light-colored T-shirt from their wardrobe that looks really great on (them).

“So, let’s say you just look amazing in this yellow shirt – take that shirt to the store and get it matched to a low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. And the reason you’re doing this is it’s a totally foolproof way to choose a paint color.”

If you wear a color well, says Seo, “You are going to look amazing in that room.”

Choose a better light: When choosing a CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulb for the bathroom, “you don’t want to choose a bulb that says it mimics daylight,” Seo says. “That’s the harsh bright white light that is clinical in feeling.

“You really want to choose one that’s perfect for reading lamps,” he says. “You want to choose the bulb with the lower lumen rating – basically a lower rating means a more yellow light. Most people look better in a yellow light.”

Add visual interest: No need to shun the strictly decorative, just settle on one standout piece rather than lots of little touches. Seo likes to bring a touch of nature into the bath.

“I think it’s nice to bring in one natural, sort of curated element,” he says, citing a driftwood mirror. “I think one thing that can stand on its own is always cool.

“I know people who collect a lot of sea shells, for example. So in a shower stall, it’s kind of fun to do a little mound of sea shells in the corner on the tile floor.

“I’ve used just a long branch I found in the yard as a curtain rod. But again, if I did that with the mirror, the curtain rod, the window treatments and the hooks in the wall, it would feel too theme-like. One little piece here or there is always a nice thing to do, and it’s free.”


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