Q: What type of eco-friendly materials should I use that are durable? I’m looking for something that works well in a modern bathroom.
Two of the most eco-friendly and durable materials to use in a modern bathroom are concrete and nickel-finished copper. Native Trails recently launched our new NativeStone™ Collection, which reinforces concrete sinks with sustainable jute fiber with cement—making them stronger and lighter than typical concrete—and making great use of a rapidly renewing natural resource in Vietnam, where artisans create these sinks by hand. A low-VOC nano sealer protects the concrete from stains – overcoming one of the most common issues people have with typical concrete. As far as we can tell, we’ve created the most durable, and also the most eco-conscious, concrete sinks yet. The trough sinks in the NativeStone collection are particularly suited for a modern space, since their sleek lines establish an industrial vibe.
Hand-hammered copper bathtubs, sinks, and accessories made from recycled copper and finished in Brushed Nickel are especially popular for a contemporary space.
For vanities, seek out reclaimed and FSC-certified woods. At Native Trails, we have a vanity line called the Vintner’s Collection that specifically repurposes wine barrels and oaking staves from California wineries into bath furniture. These materials have all proven to be very easy to maintain and durable. And because reclaimed wood is—fortunately for us and for the environment—on trend right now, the pieces in our Vintner’s Collection and Americana Collection are right at home in a modern bathroom.
Q: Are there any sinks that fall into the eco-friendly category that are easy to maintain?
Absolutely. Even though copper is sometimes dogged by its reputation for being challenging, it is really just misunderstood. Antiqued copper may actually be the most low maintenance material there is, since it continually re-patinas and “heals” itself without any work on the owner’s part. I have our copper sinks all over my house, inside and out, and believe me, I have no time or patience for high maintenance materials – that’s one reason I love them. Because of its natural bacteria-fighting characteristics, some homeowners actually feel like their copper sinks all but clean themselves. There are copper-specific polishing products on the market, but we don’t recommend using them on our sinks, since they can interfere with copper’s natural evolution, which we think results in a more beautiful and certainly one-of-a-kind sink with each passing year. Instead, a wipe down with water and mild soap is all that’s needed to maintain your copper sink.
The same goes for our NativeStone concrete sinks – simple soap and water. They are sealed with an enduring nano sealer, which binds with the concrete on a molecular level, creating an incredible barrier to stains and making them extremely low maintenance. This has been really exciting for people who love the look of concrete but have been deterred by fear of staining. In fact, that’s why we created the line – the goal was to make concrete not just beautiful, but also practical and easy to live with.
Q: How can I make small changes to the bathroom to make it more environmentally friendly?
Always keep durability in mind. One of the most important factors for conserving our environment is to avoid sending stuff to the landfill – so choose products that will last, and styles that will endure. Whenever possible, choose materials that are recyclable or biodegradable, and if they come from recycled sources as well – even better!
Also look for companies that focus on durability and sustainability as a cornerstone of their products—they are out there. Some companies go beyond sustainability in the sense of choosing materials and methods that conserve energy and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, but also regarding sensitivity to waste and pollution. When looking at handcrafted products made globally, seek out companies who make it a priority to provide good-paying jobs to hard-working and talented artisans. This way, your home can be a showcase of one-of-a-kind products, each with its own story to tell, thanks to the human hands that have formed it.