How do you know what’s the most environmentally friendly way to wash dishes? You ask one of those nifty books that advise you of the “greenest” options for all the ordinary elements of quotidian life.
These books invariably (in my experience to date) recommend using a dishwasher instead of hand washing, as it uses less water. Which seemed odd to me – right up until I read the dishwashing section of How To Save Your Planet One Object At A Time by Dr Tara Shine.
This starts – as is usual on these occasions – by suggesting that you use a dishwasher. It then explains that this is because “manual dishwashing can use an average of up to 50 litres of water….per wash.”
Setting aside for a moment the combination of “average” and “up to” – not how averages worked when I was at school – FIFTY LITRES OF WATER!
I wash dishes in a washing-up bowl (a squarish plastic bowl that fits in the sink). When full, it holds five litres of water – only a tenth of the average up-to. Five litres once a day is still only 35L in a week.
All of which leads me to two questions. One: how in the name of sweet green apples do you use 50L of water for a single load of dishes? And two: why do the people who write eco books assume that this is how everyone does it?
In the interest of scrupulous fairness, I must admit that I didn’t count the water used in running the tap to hot, something which the dishwasher with its 6.5L doesn’t need to do.
On the other hand, 6.5L is the amount given for a “new, efficient” dishwasher, and that doesn’t include the washing of anything you own that isn’t dishwasher safe. Or any rinsing you do of things you don’t think the dishwasher will quite manage to get clean unaided.
The book also includes the “average of up to” for time used in washing dishes by hand. Sixty minutes. Sixty! That’s a full hour per load!
I don’t know who these poor souls are who are spending more than 4% of their mortal span washing their dishes in half a bathful of hot water, but it seems to me that staging an intervention would be more appropriate than recommending they buy a dishwasher.
For one thing, a 5L dish bowl doesn’t produce a hulking pile of e-waste every 7-10 years – and that’s got to be good for the planet.
How do you wash your dishes – and have you ever managed to use 50L in one go?