Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Friday, 26 January 2007

Washing up

Today at 1340 I started running the hot tap to get the water to come hot. While it ran I cleared the washing up rack of clean dry things left from the breakfast washing up.
At 1343 I had a bowl of hot water and a clear rack. I pulled on my rubber gloves. I started washing while the tap filled the rinsing bowl.
It was a cooked lunch. There were pans, two chopping boards and a measuring jug as well as the plates and cutlery. At 1348 it was all done, a full rack of washed dishes were draining, and I had cleaned the kitchen surfaces. I took off my rubber gloves and went back to work.
I'd be interested to know from anyone who uses a dishwasher for day to day usage, how much time it takes to load a dishwasher and unload it when it's clean, including the time spent cleaning the filters and so on? Aside from the frustration of finding that the item you need is in the dishwasher waiting to be washed up, and the frustration of finding that the rack into which your item would fit is already full, and the cost to yourself and the environment of running a dishwasher, is there actually any saving in effort or time?


Richard said...

Hello Catherine. Just found your blog - very interesting!
It should be noted that your total time for washing up only covers 1 meal and 1 person. A dishwasher would typically be used only once a day, and would probably have the capacity to cater for the load generated by a family of 4+
Given that your manual washing up takes 8 minutes for one meal. Let's assume:
Time for 3 meals (3x8) = 24mins
Add 50% for family of 4 = 36mins
Suddenly the time saving doesn't look so great for the manual washing... I know it takes me near 30mins sometimes to do a full day's worth in the evening (I tend to leave the drying-up to God...) However, the effort of loading/unloading a machine can be a real pain, and certainly isn't worth the trouble unless you have a very large family!
I can imagine some situations in which it might be more efficient to use the dishwasher: in a house with electric heating (or gas heating but during the summer months when not used) and electric shower etc.
I wonder if, in this situation, it would be more efficient (and therefore greener, given that 20% of electricity is supposed to come from renewables) to use a dishwasher rather than burning gas to keep the water tank full of hot water...

Catherine Rowett said...

Hi Richard,
I admit it was a meal for one, but it was a main meal with pans, and you don't usually have that three times a day.

The pans might be a size larger for a whole family but that doesn't really take any longer. So for the main meal for a family of four one needs to add three more bowls, three more plates, glasses, knives, forks and spoons. Perhaps double the time for that meal?

Of course the draining rack might get full (which is a further good reason for not doing a massive wash at the end of the day), but if there are several people eating there should be one to dry up the dishes, which makes it a sociable activity as well as green.

Doing it all at the end of a day is a sad way to end your day in my view (unless it's done in a sociable way). It also leads to problems with not enough room for the dirties while you're trying to do the cooking. Much to be avoided in my opinion.

Also the surfaces get a good wipe three times a day, and the washing up water never needs changing if you do it little and often.

As for hot water, I suspect on any calculation the dishwasher is more extravagant even than running a bowl of water three times a day. But I haven't explored to find out.

Richard said...

"Doing it all at the end of a day is a sad way to end your day in my view"

I admit I'm probably in a small minority of people who actually enjoy washing up... I find it quite a nice way to end the day sometimes. It's a chance to disengage the brain and listen to some nice music - very therapeutic!

"Also the surfaces get a good wipe three times a day,"

Ah, but once a surface is covered with a dirty plate/dish it can't get any grubbier ;-)

"and the washing up water never needs changing if you do it little and often"

I challenge myself (sad, isn't it?) to use just the one bowel of hot water. I don't think I've failed yet with the amount of dishes the 2 of use get through. It's all about the order in which you wash things!

Catherine Rowett said...

Actually, I don't know why I'm arguing for doing it in three batches. I'm actually generally in favour of doing breakfast with lunch or lunch with supper, especially if lunch is just a plate and a glass!