Just before we were forced to spend 24 hours a day inside of our home, we finished with the last major piece of renovation that it required: a new bathroom. It was an opportunity to put my pledge to the test in the most substantial way yet, and finally fix up a room not only to be modern and nice-looking but also sustainable.
In fact, the process served only as a reminder of the difficulties faced by anyone trying to be green. Trying not to cost the Earth can mean costing a lot of money.
It is, of course, the most immense privilege to be able to have bathroom and the ability to re-decorate it, and one that I am grateful for each day. But, it turns out, even more privilege is required if you want to do that in a eco-friendly, green way.
Examples are everywhere you turn. It’s true at the most disposable end of the market: if you want a shower gel that’s made sustainably, for instance, or comes in a bottle you can re-use, then you’re going to have to pay up. At the other end of the market comes the big ticket items, such as showers, many of the most expensive of which boast special technology to keep water use down but require you to spend a lot more to actually get it.
Our shower is resolutely normal, surely using up a fair whack of water, since we couldn’t spend a fair whack on buying it. Likewise, our lights switch off and on at the tug of a string, with not a motion sensor or WiFi connection in sight. Our heating system is nothing smarter or greener than a radiator.
The bathroom is not even the most egregious room of the house for it. New windows and solar panels would make our home much more green, but would require the kind of investment that we can’t afford even in the best of times; new televisions promise energy efficient panels but would of course require you to throw away your old one first, and them stump up for a new one.
None of this is to whinge or moan. People have products to sell, and those products need new features; it is certainly something to be celebrated that those new features are things that make the products more sustainable rather than less.
But it will surely be to the detriment of the environmental movement if green credentials turn into little more than a feature, and one you have to pay up for. It is wonderful that people are hankering after green bathrooms and not just clean ones – but it would be great if people did not have to hanker at all.