After a delicious meal, no one looks forward to that time of reckoning when the filthy pots and plates need to be washed. But it's possible to make this chore Earth-friendly, if not fun. Whether you're using a dishwasher or your own two hands, we show you how to be green during the washing-up. If you're...washing by hand
We often read that using a dishwasher is actually a greener practice than hand-washing dishes, as long as the dishes aren't rinsed before being loaded into the machine. But those of us who don't have dishwashers don't really have a choice. At least we can challenge ourselves to meet the Version 5.0 ENERGY STAR requirements at home. Compact dishwashers can't use more than 3.5 gallons of water a cycle, and for full sized machines, the limit is 4.25 gallons. If you can stay under those limits at home, slap an ENERGY STAR sticker on your hands!
To keep your water use to a minimum, give yourself three dishwashing stations:
1. A basin with hot, soapy water for scrubbing.
2. A second basin with 1/4 cup white vinegar mixed into cool tap water, for rinsing.
3. A rack for drying.
If your home kitchen sink or countertop set-up is short of the space you need, buy a small, shallow plastic tub to use for one of the steps. Be sure to scrape as much food residue off the dishes as possible before you subject them to their scrubbing. Rinsing in acidic water will get the soap residue off the dishes using less water than you'd use if you rinsed them off under a running tap. And studies have shown that letting dishes air dry is more sanitary than towel-drying them. If you're....using a dishwasher
If you're looking to replace your old dishwasher or bring one into your kitchen for the first time, you'll want to select a model that meets the standards for ENERGY STAR Version 5.0
. The new specifications don't formally go into effect until January 20, 2012, but you don't have to wait until then to shop--many of the latest models already meet the Version 5.0 standards, which highlight dishwashers that are 8% more efficient than precious ENERGY STAR certified models--and 30% more energy-efficient than the average model on the market.
Drying: Letting dishes air dry is the most energy-efficient way to go. So pay attention to your settings for the drying cycle! If your dishwasher has an air dry cycle, use it. If not, skip the dryer cycle and simply open the dishwasher's door. You'll cut the energy used by your dishwasher by up to 15%.Dishwasher or elbow grease, you'll also need...soap
Phosphorous, chlorine bleach, perfumes, and dyes: These are all substances we don't want in our water supply but are common in dish detergents. Make sure your dish detergent is as green as the organic, locally-sourced dinner you served an hour earlier by choosing an appropriate product from these eco-friendly brands: Seventh GenerationMethodSun & EarthEcoverNatural Choices Oxi-Dish