Friday, September 20, 2013

Eco Dish Washing Options


Queen Composter shares her dishwashing dilemma.

Recently our aged dishwasher suffered a slow and painful death, leaving me with a counter covered in dirty dishes. Actually, my counter is always covered in dirty dishes, but it felt worse because now I was going to have to wash them all by hand.

We had to wait about three weeks for a new amazing Energy Star dishwasher to arrive and it was quite a challenge to keep up with it all, especially as there are five of us in the house, with some of us around full time, cooking and eating and making messes. I do realize that this is a first world problem and many people do not own a dishwasher.

As my one little word for the year is “gratitude”, I tried to look at the problem from a new perspective. Here I was gifted with the opportunity to be water-wise and mindful of my energy use. I knew how to use as little water as possible to wash dishes when camping and I took this on as a challenge. Then I began to feel fairly self-righteous about the experience, assuming that I was washing dishes in an environmentally friendly way

As we got closer to the delivery date I began to feel guilty about getting a new dishwasher. Here I was coping without one and I wondered how “bad” it was going to be to go back to my oh so convenient dishwasher. I decided to do some research into hand washing versus dishwashing machines.
I never have time to towel dry my dishes and I think I am quite
accomplished at stacking them to dry, Tetris style.

Most of the articles on line about this issue, such this one, seem to side with Energy Star dishwashers as the more eco option, and provide these tips for energy efficient use of dishwashers:
  • don’t pre-rinse dishes
  • only run full loads
  • use the eco settings
  • for older models with a heating element, simply open the door at the end of the wash cycle and air dry (new Energy Star models have no heating element)

However, dishwashers require energy to heat the water (newer models are cold water fill), to run the motor and to dry the dishes. The production of dishwashers requires materials and energy for manufacturing, as well as transport, servicing and disposal at the end of their lives. Hand washing only requires hot water and washing cloths.

Assuming that one fills one side of the sink with warm, soapy water and one side with rinsing water, the amount of heated water required should be less than the amount of hot water for a load of dishes (ie: not continually running hot water to wash). Many people commenting on these articles argue that the amounts of estimated hot water to handwash are more than they actually use. However, I personally cannot wash my dishes that efficiently and I am often left with food still caked on the dishes and pots. If I am being honest I would admit that I frequently run water while I wash dishes, especially with very dirty pots and pans.

In the end our dishwasher arrived, and I happily went back to loading dirty dishes and unloading clean ones. Our new Energy Star dishwasher has wonderful eco settings and is whisper quiet, unlike our last one that made us feel like we lived next to an airport runway (which was a sure sign that it wasn’t very eco). Is it better than hand washing? I believe the jury is still out on this issue.

Will I give up the convenience of my dishwasher? In the same way that I will not be completely giving up my vehicle in favour of cycling or public transportation, I will not be taking out my dishwasher. I can rest assured that I have made the most eco choice in dishwashers and that many "experts" support this decision. I hope that for now that is enough.

What is your opinion of hand washing versus dishwashing?

8 comments:

Sarah said...

It really is so hard to know - it depends on your personal handwashing style and dishwasher. I am of the running-water-while-washing variety so that's no good, but our lovely rental apartment dishwasher is so crappy that sometimes I have to run it a second time. Also not good. What I focus on instead is how to use less dishes! I reuse mugs/glasses, try to use minimal utensils when cooking/baking, and sometimes will put one of my slightly used plates aside (like it only had toast on it) to use again. Yay less dishes!

Eco Yogini said...

after some similar searching, our family has come to the same conclusion- dishwasher (energy star rating) for us would be best.

Hopefully, we'll move towards even more efficient and recycled content (squee!) dishwashers....

Lisa said...

From my research even if you wash very carefully, an Energy Star dishwasher uses less water. It's at least close. You can turn off the heat dry on many of them which helps reduce the energy use, that's what I do. :)

Christy said...

That would be fantastic if manufacturers started making appliances out of recycled materials. And it would also be great if appliances were made to be fixed. Too often we are told to just buy a new one because it's "cheaper".

robbie @ going green mama said...

We ended up with an HE dishwasher several years ago and would not go back. We also make our own dish soap which helps too!

JONES MILLER said...

I had gone through it thoroughly its really worth to spent time on it and i really got to know a lot more from it .
Travesti

Mitty said...

I don't know that there's a correct answer for this. It depends on your personal style. For example,we pre-rinse our dishes because with a small family, the dishwasher will start to stink before it is full if we don't. I use the heat dry because I don't want to leave the door open where I will bang into it, and the dishes never get really dry without a going over with a dish cloth without the heat. When I hand wash, I don't run the water constantly, though I could certainly use less water than I do. The dishwasher soap is caustic and damages the glassware. I use a dishwasher now, but won't have one in our retirement home. Will it be more or less "green"? I'm not really sure, but it will use less money overall, so that's how I made the final decision.

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