My Biggest Weakness in Being Green

There are some people who take to living green like a fish to water. For others, their fervor to save the world prompts them to change everything about themselves seemingly overnight. Me, I’m more of a tiptoe and change as far as my budget allows, giving myself goals and guidelines as I go. But there’s one weakness I have.


And not just any cleaning.

Washing the dishes.

People say to live greener to wash your crusty dishes and rinse, all by hand, and set them out to air dry, or, if you live in a humid environment, to towel dry them. I’m fine with filling up the sink with sudsy water and washing dishes by hand, but there’s just one thing. I can’t, Can’t, Can’t skip a preliminary scrubbing with water first to get rid of food particles. In this, I’m like Adrian Monk.


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If there are any food particles, any hint of what might be a food particle, even a water spot, the dish or pan or cup goes into the sink for another scrubbing session. Yet, more often than not, that’s what happens when I take a used plate, with all its crumbs and sticky sauces, and simply wash and rinse it in a filled sink, so all my dishes, pans, and silverware must go through a pre-wash scrub and rinse. Using a dishwasher is no different. I still must do a pre-wash scrub and rinse.

What does this mean for my water usage? Well, it takes about a minute to fill one side of my sink with 45 cups, or a little less than 3 gallons, of water (I know because I measured each and every cup. You’re welcome). That means that for washing and rinsing dishes in a plugged and filled sink, it takes about 6 gallons of water. If you’re wondering, an average dishwasher uses about 6 gallons of water per load, and eco-friendly ones use 4 gallons.

Now, we must include my pre-wash rinse as well. It takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes to rinse off all the dishes, depending on how many there are and how soiled they are. Let’s say I’m in a cleaning frenzy and forget to turn off the faucet while I’m scrubbing. Ignoring the fact that I’d most likely either scald myself while rinsing or run out of hot water, I’d end up using anywhere from 1.5 to 90 gallons of water in that 30 seconds to 30 minutes. That’s a lot of water to just run down the drain, unusable as it flows through sewage, to be cleaned prior to dumping in a lake no one uses for drinking or crop growing, until it evaporates, condenses into clouds, and precipitates somewhere else in the world. In other words, what a waste!

I don’t think I’ll be able to change my Monk-like urge to clean dishes until they’re sparkling before I cook with them or eat off them, but I can change the way I use water. Scrubbing with a soaking wet washcloth does a fairly adequate job of rinsing, with a quick spray of water at the end finishing the job. If I just stick to doing that, I can cut my water usage down ten-fold.

I vow that I will retrain myself to clean in a healthy and environmentally friendly way, to reduce my water consumption by turning the faucet off, and to get those dishes sparkly clean every single time! (Sorry, I need the sparkle)


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