Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dishwashers vs. Hand-Washing Dishes



By Wong Ee Lynn

According to a 2004 study from the University of Bonn in Germany (Household Technology department), automatic dishwashers, preferably new energy-efficient ones, have a lower environmental impact than hand-washing dishes in a sink. It was determined that an automatic dishwasher only uses 50% of the energy and a small fraction of the water, along with less soap.

This raises many questions and doubts. The fact that the Bonn study project partners were dishwasher manufacturers also means that we should regard the study with healthy skepticism.

The study failed to take into account, for example, the fact that dishwashing machine detergent tends to be harsher on the environment, and earth-friendly options are not as easily available as biodegradable and environmentally-friendlier liquid detergent (Brands available in Malaysia include Bio-Home, Ligent, Ecover and Good Maid Bio).

Also, the study failed to note that it would take a lot of energy and resources to make a dishwasher: steel, plastic, packaging and transportation costs, not to mention the electricity needed to operate an automatic dishwasher.

No matter which method you choose, here are green practices which will reduce your home energy and water use when doing your dishes:

1. Studies show that most people pre-rinse dishes before loading them into the dishwasher. Modern dishwashers, certainly those purchased within the last 5 to 10 years, do a superb job of cleaning even heavily-soiled dishes. Don’t be tempted to pre-rinse dishes before loading. Simply scrape off any food and empty liquids and let the dishwasher do the rest.
2. Load dishes according to manufacturer’s instructions. Completely fill the racks to optimize water and energy use, but allow proper water circulation for adequate cleaning.
3. Wash only full loads. Use energy-saving options, e.g. the "No Heat, Air-Dry" option. Turn down the water heater temperature.

1. When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run while rinsing. If possible, fill one sink with soapy wash water and the other with rinse water.
2. Soak pots and pans overnight to make them easy to clean without running the faucet while scrubbing. Whenever possible, use once-used water, e.g. water from washing one's hands or from soaking vegetables and rinsing rice.
3. Wash glassware first, then the cleanest dishes, leaving greasy dishes and pots and pans to the end. This helps keep your water clean longer – and your dishes grease-free.
4. You do not need to fill a sink with water to have enough to wash a load of dishes. Setting an appropriately-sized washbasin in your sink for dishes can help keep the water you use to a minimum. Or fill the sink only a few inches full.
5. Use a readily biodegradable dish soap to protect freshwater resources.
6. Switch to a kitchen faucet with an aerator if your water use is relatively high. Aerators reduce water flow by about 25% and produce a water stream that is every bit as good for washing dishes, hands, or fruits and vegetables.
7. Do not install or use a kitchen sink waste grinding and disposal unit. In-sink 'garburators' require lots of water to operate properly, and also add considerably to the volume of solids in pipes and plumbing, which can lead to maintenance problems. Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste instead.

No matter which method of washing dishes you have chosen for yourself and your loved ones, putting these environmentally-responsible tips into practice will reduce any adverse impact on the environment, as well as your utility bills.

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