No matter how the dishwashing duties break down at your house, you don’t have to get dishpan hands anymore. If you’ve been debating whether to invest in an automatic dishwasher, let the earth be your reason to make the change. Automatic dishwashers use way less water than washing by hand in the sink. Researchers in Germany pitted the most frugal and judicious handwashing against the modern automatic dishwasher and found that dishpan hands are the least of the problem. The dishwasher uses half the energy and one-sixth of the water compared with handwashing. Less soap too.
So, now that you’re sold on the automatic washer, here’s the greenest way to operate it.
#1. Be an Energy Star.
Be sure to buy an Energy Star model to get the most for your money. An Energy Star washer can save you up to $100 in water over its lifetime and an additional $30 every year on your electrical bills. Dishwasher technology is evolving so quickly, you’d think by now they’d have invented a unit that loads itself. Today’s dishwashers use 95 percent less energy than those built in the early 1970s. But Consumer Reports found that those fancy “smart” washers with dirt sensors used significantly more energy than the nonsensor types, and so they recommend skipping that jazzy feature when you’re machine shopping.
Fill It Up
Be sure the dishwasher is full before you turn it on. Using all that energy to heat and dry just a few dishes is such a waste.
#2. Run your dishwasher during off-peak hours.
Once your dishwasher is fully loaded, don’t feel you have to run it right away. Look for a model that comes with a delay setting. In the near future, it will pay to run major appliances during off-peak hours, as more and more utility companies convert to time-of-use billing. For example, by 2010, every home in Ontario will be equipped with a smart electricity meter, which will charge users higher electricity rates during peak hours. If you run your dishwasher at midnight, it will cost you—and the earth—a lot less, as the grid won’t need to draw from coal-fired plants at that hour to keep up with demand. So to save on greenhouse gas emissions and on your electricity bill, run your dishwasher in the middle of the night and wake up to a clean load.
#3. Scrape dishes clean.
Good news for whoever’s on dish duty tonight: no need to pre-rinse your dishes. Pre-rinsing not only wastes water, it doesn’t improve cleaning results. So no need to run the tap—just scrape off extra food before items go into the dishwasher. (Be sure to scrape them well, though. Food waste builds up in the machine and reduces its efficiency, not to mention its effectiveness.) Be sure to regularly clean the filter at the bottom of your dishwasher to keep it running efficiently.
Don’t Be a Water Waster
Much of the world gets by on 2.5 litres of water a day—running the water at the kitchen sink for two minutes uses more than 7 litres of water. When I’m washing those pots and pans and other items that don’t go in the dishwasher, I try to imagine that someone from an impoverished developing nation is standing there watching me. It sounds goofy, but it actually helps draw my attention to how much I leave the tap running. Canadians are among the highest water users in the world—according to Environment Canada, we use roughly twice as much per person as in other industrialized countries. Guilt can be a powerful motivation to change.
Make a difference − share this environmental tip with your friends.