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Living Less Unsustainably: Dishwashers

John Fischer

Hi, Climate master John Fischer here with KLCC's Living Less Unsustainably.

Isn't it nice when a labor saving machine you might feel guilty about turns out to be better for the environment than the old tried and true method?

An energy star dishwasher uses 3 gallons of water to do a load. That's half the amount consumed in hand washing the same dishes. New dishwashers have internal water heaters, and a cleanable filter to keep the wash water clean.

To increase efficiency, skip the dry cycle, eat or save all the food on your plate before you put it in the machine, and if you must pre-rinse, do it in a basin with a few cups of water, not by running the water for each plate.

Credit John Fischer / KLCC
New dishwashers have internal water heaters, and a cleanable filter to keep the wash water clean.

If you hand wash with minimal water-  a gallon, and rinse in half a gallon, you might get close, but studies of actual people show that very few of us follow ideal practices for hand washing, and most people leave the water running, or use a wasteful blast of water to rinse the plates.

While saving water is important, saving the energy used to heat the water has a bigger impact on our climate.

Another place to reduce resource use is in the detergent.  Fortunately, phosphates were removed from detergent back in 2010.  But the proliferation of the "one size fits" all pods means those of us with soft water are using more detergent than we need, so people with hard water will get clean dishes.  Most people use more detergent than they need to. A box of powder allows you to adjust for the conditions, so you don't flush unused, and unneeded detergent down the drain. A greasy load after thanksgiving may require more detergent than your daily dishes. The pods are just another convenience and marketing technique that generates more packaging waste per load and triples the price of the detergent.

I'm John Fischer with KLCC's living less unsustainably.

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