In the small, unimposing town of New Bern, NC (infamously known as the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola) lies the only US appliance manufacturer with complete lines of Energy Star-certified dishwashers, washers, and refrigerators — Bosch. That’s right, the German Company. Surprised? It was the first of many surprises I discovered while touring their US manufacturing facility. Here are five lessons learned from Bosch that have me taking a second look at my appliances, where they come from, and what they are or are not doing for the environment.

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1. Performance

Imagine a room filled with 50 dishwashers running through their various different cycles — do you think you could hear a pin drop? That might just be possible if they’re Bosch’s latest 800 Plus Dishwashers, which feature a LED indicator light that shines on the floor when it’s closed so you can tell whether or not the machine is actually running. If, like me, you are wondering why Bosch has so many machines running at once, you will be interested to hear that Bosch runs performance tests on each and every one of their machines prior to packaging and shipping to retailers. When looking a machine’s performance you have to decide what’s most important for you. If it’s efficiency you’re looking for, don’t stop at the Energy Star label. With so many products now sporting this government-backed certification, it is important to look at the small print and really asses how much electricity and water is being used each cycle. Which leads us to our next lesson…

2. Cost Savings in Efficiency & Rebate Programs

Cost savings do not depend solely upon the initial purchase price — they should also include the overall performance of the appliance itself. Bosch’s latest Vision line features the most energy and water-efficient full-sized front-load washers that are available in the U.S. (They also happen to be available in a variety of cool colors including: sliver, anthracite, sky, and sepia.)

A lot of manufacturers are offering additional rebates to those looking to make green changes in their homes. One quick way to find available rebates it to check out the SEEARP (State Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program). Bosch also has an available Rebate Resource Center for consumers to learn all about government, retailer, and Bosch rebates that are currently available.

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3. Lifecycle Management

The last time my parents purchased a major appliance, the old one ended up in our garage, as a back-up fridge. (Really – a back-up fridge?!?) When considering the entire lifecycle of your appliance or future appliance, don’t forget to consider what happens after many years of holiday dinners and family bake-offs. In Bosch’s case, 90% of their cooking appliances by weight can be recycled, and wall ovens are at least 92% recyclable. How many of your current appliances will end-up in the junkyard?

4. Supply Chain Management

It takes many suppliers to build one product — especially with all the individual parts that come together in big appliances. Bosch helps motivate their individual suppliers to integrate more environmentally-conscious methods into their practices, especially when it comes to their shipping materials. In 2009 the company saved approximately 52,200 pallets and cardboard boxes through the use of returnable containers. When taking a hard look at the appliances that you’re purchasing, think out of the box and beyond the finished product to see where other sustainable efforts are being made – if any are being made at all.

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5. A Sustainable Company

Earlier this winter Bosch was recognized for the second consecutive year as the Energy Star Partner of the Year for Appliances by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which says a lot about the Germany company. One of its primary motivators to manufacture in New Bern, NC has to do with their desire to produce locally in the markets they sell in – reducing the associated environmental effects caused by shipping items overseas and meeting sustainable manufacturing goals.

I admit that the trip may have left me a little bit biased and my roaming designer eye has a tendency to lean towards a European aesthetic. However, the next time you go through the decision-making process to purchase your next big appliance consider the following: overall performance, cost savings, lifecycle & supply chain management, and the company’s overall commitment to sustainability. You might be surprised to find out that the most homegrown decision you can make just might be a European one.

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