The dishwasher is a modern convenience that saves us hours of cleaning and drying time, not to mention pruny dishpan hands. But is the dishwasher an extravagance in our eco-conscious age? You might be surprised! The answer is no – and that’s a win-win for those who believe that technology can lead to a greener, more prosperous future.

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Researchers at the University of Bonn recently asked, “Is a machine more efficient than the hand?” by analyzing the habits of over 100 dishwashers across Europe. The study uncovered interesting profiles of various dishwashing styles across European countries – Spain used the most water and energy, while Italy scored highest on the “cleaning index.” But even accounting for regional variations, dishwashing by hand used more energy and water (on average 27 gallons and 2.5 kWh) than a dishwashing machine (4 gallons and 1-2 kWh).

But this study was conducted in Europe, home of the super efficient dishwasher. The American dishwasher is a different animal – louder, bigger, and more plastic. The European dishwasher is smaller in stature, less obvious, control panel hidden from view, often silent, an object of desire.

So how do those Europeans have an edge on us?

Better use of heat Certain dishwasher models from Europe are designed to get the dishes clean at maximum temperatures. Stainless steel interiors, rather than plastic, are used to retain more heat. The condensation cycle is used to keep the contents warm, and ultimately dry.

Less water, less energy European dishwashers are more eco-friendly, using 4 gallons of water verses 14 gallons in American models, and less energy to run the machines. This is driven by better design, but also much higher standards from the European Union. The EPA’s Energy Star program is voluntary, whereas in Europe eco-efficiency is mandatory. There are no wasteful appliance options in Europe.

Silent, but beautiful Eco-efficiency is not the only standard for European dishwashers – the EU also demands that appliance makers publish information about noise pollution as well. Europe has standardized decibel measurements, and there has been talk of Sears adopting a similar approach . Less water, less energy, more heat, platinum interior finishes. Is the European dishwasher a model for how green design is great design?


If you don’t live in Europe or you’re just not ready for a new machine, not to worry- there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your use of a dishwasher is as eco-friendly as possible:

Only wash full loads A full energy-efficient dishwasher cleans best and has the lowest environmental impact of any other method.

Skip the pre-rinse Discard whatever food waste you have into your tidy compost bin, and place your dishes and cutlery straight into the dishwasher – you’ll be saving water and time.

Off-peak washing Delay the start of your dishwasher for off-peak utility hours, which may even offer reduce rates based on your energy provider.

Use an eco-friendly detergent Avoid phosphorous-laden detergents or other harmful chemicals.

For the greenest machines available in the US today, the EPA’s Energy Star guide is the best resource.

Next week in our Green Your Appliances series: KITCHEN GADGETS!

About BOSCH “Bosch is committed to preserving the environment through innovative approaches to the products we manufacture, as well as the partnerships we form with key leaders in sustainable construction and design. Sustainability, responsibility and continuous improvement are the tenets of our company and are shared by our partners across the United States.

Bosch practices low-impact manufacturing processes while designing the most efficient machines on the market. In fact, we introduced a global integrated management system for environmental issues that makes certain we maintain our high standards for environmental responsibility wherever our operations take us.

Bosch regards innovation as something more than exceptional product quality, functionality and design. Not only our technical developments, but also our commitment to society has an effect on the world of tomorrow.” + Bosch Green Thinking Resource Center

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. Jennifer Van Der Meer, o2-nyc chair, Inhabitat contributer, green design consultant

JENNIFER VAN DER MEER Jennifer is a leader in brand and product innovation, and is a founding principal at research design house Risqué Consulting. A former Wall Street analyst and economist, Jennifer transitioned into the design industry upon graduating with an MBA from HEC in Paris. She has held strategy and executive management positions at Organic, Inc., Frog Design, and Fahrenheit 212. A leader in the green design community in NY, Jennifer serves as chapter chair of o2-NYC, and lectures on the topic of sustainable innovation. + o2-NYC