The first step to sprucing up your dish washing is to stop using as much water. The best way to wash dishes for water efficiency is to fill the sink with soap and water and turn off the faucet while cleaning. After you've filled the basin, don't let water go down the drain unless you're using it to rinse off suds. You can also use a water aerator to maximize the water coming out of the spout. These little devices are less than $5 and just screw right on to the end of your faucet.
However, using your dishwater may be the greener dish washing option. Energy Star-rated dishwashers only use about 3.5 gallons of water to wash a load of dishes. That's one flush of an old-style toilet! You are likely to use more water inadvertently when hand washing dishes, but you should also consider your dishwasher settings. Don't use high heat to dry, set loads on the least energy-intensive wash setting, and always run a full load rather than several smaller loads. Tree Hugger reports that unless you can wash each bowl or plate with just over a cup of water, the dishwasher wins. Conserving water at home while using the dishwasher will save your family time and help the planet.
How You Scrub
While conserving water, consider what you're scrubbing with. Does your scrubber also reflect your green attitude? Choose a durable grime buster that will last awhile and not end up in the trash after just a few uses. Certainly a simple wash cloth that has many years ahead of it and is easily washed with your laundry is at the top of the list. Also consider a silicone scrubber for a very long life but not as much scouring power, or a bristled brush that will really do the job for a long time but may end up in the landfill. There are also many naturally derived sponges made of walnut, bamboo, coconut, and other plant products (I've put my family's walnut-based sponge in the compost bin). Check out Life Without Plastic for more suggestions and substitutions.
Your stainless steel scrubber may or may not be able to go out with your curbside recycling. Zero Waste Home says yes, but my local county solid waste authority says no. Stainless steel can only be recycled at a scrap yard. Check your local recycling rules before tossing it in the bin.
Dish Soap: Clean, but Not Green
Go for biodegradable dish soap with plant-derived surfactants when doing your dishes, says Cascada Expediciones. Biodegradable soaps are even more important for homes with septic systems, where your water ends up in the soil in your yard. The bacteria and other life in your dirt will filter out most of the soap, but if any makes its way into your aquifer or local waterway, it will quickly break down. For those of us with municipal water, you still want to choose biodegradable soap because not all surfactants will be taken out at the water treatment plant. Detergents are a real problem for fish and other aquatic life, writes Lenntech, because these soaps remove their external mucus layers, damage gills, and can kill their eggs in high quantities.
What else have you done to green-ify your dish washing routine? Can you recycle stainless steel scrubbies in your area? Let us know on Twitter!
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Why It’s Good
Water is our most important natural resource as life can not exist without it! Conserving water is important for so many reasons including energy savings in water extraction and transportation, reducing effects of drought, and water shortages.