water Icon

4 CHANGE DISH-WASHING HABITS

This action focuses on reducing typical dish washing water consumption by changing dish washing habits.

  • Spring Icon
  • Summer Icon
  • Autumn Icon
  • Winter Icon

why?

The third largest use of water in households is for kitchen use and accounts for 15% of all residential water use. Almost all of this is from washing dishes (either by hand or in a dish washer). Typical dish washers use 12-15 gallons of water on a regular cycle, while newer washers use 6-9 gallons per load. On the other hand, 16 gallons of water is typically used to wash these dishes by hand if the faucet is kept running. If hand washing is done in a basin of water this can be minimized to around 6 gallons fairly easily.

This action focuses on changing your dish washing habits to use only 6 gallons of water per day.


how to do this action:

PARTICIPANTS WITH DISHWASHERS

If you have a dishwasher, the first step is to figure out how much water is used on the cycle you typically use to run one load. This information is typically found in your user manual. If you don't have yours, it is likely that you can find it online. Following are some links to common dishwasher appliance sites:

Following is an example of the information to be collected with the user manual:

user manual information

The next step is to figure out how to reduce your dishwashing use to 6 gallons/day or less. This will likely be a combination of changing the settings you typically run on your dishwasher and running it less often. For example, if you typically run a rinse cycle when the dishwasher is first loaded and then a normal wash, in the example above you would be using 15.8 gallons of water per day. In order to use only 6 gallons of water per day using the example data, the dishwasher could be run only every other day. You could also do a combination of hand washing and running the dishwasher to reach the goal of 6 gallons of dishwashing water use per day. See the following section on handwashing to see how to measure water use.

Make sure you are only run full loads in the dishwasher. Unlike hand washing where water use depends on the quantity of dishes, running a dishwasher has only a few settings. Make sure you are maximizing the work the dishwasher can accomplish with each load. Another good habit is to air dry dishes instead of using the heating element. If you run your dishwasher in the evening you can save energy by allowing dishes to drip dry and unloading the next morning.

Another option, of course is to look into getting a more water-efficient dish washer if you find that you are using much more water using a dishwasher than you would handwashing.

PARTICIPANTS WITHOUT DISHWASHERS

If you do dishes by hand, the first step is to measure how much water you typically use while washing the dishes.

Everyone has slightly different established habits for washing the dishes. For example, you may fill the sink and then run the faucet on a very low flow rate, or you might simply run the water while you wash the dishes. Next time you do the dishes, time how long you run the faucet for every stage of dish washing (ie. time to fill the sink, time water is running while rinsing, etc). The next step is to calculate the flow rate of your faucet. Take a one gallon bucket (a milk container works well) and time how long it takes to fill the container with the faucet on the rate you run it during each step of washing the dishes. For example, if it takes your faucet 30 seconds to fill up the one-gallon container then your faucet is using about 2 gallons per minute. Below is a quick chart example of how this can be calculated for hand-washers.


hand-washing water use

Based on this data, participants must come up with a plan for reducing their dish washing water use to 6 gallons per day or less. In the example above, eleven gallons of water are being used with each dish washing session. Water could be reduced in a variety of ways: use a smaller basin or fill the sink lower, turn the rinse water off and on or use a separate rinsing basin and have no running water while doing the dishes.


what will be measured?

KEY QUESTIONS

QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: How much water can be saved by changing your dish washing habits?

QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of changing your dish washing habits affect your happiness, convenience, health and costs?

BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (WTR4_BASELINE) to track how much water you currently use to wash the dishes each day (whether washing by hand or using a dishwasher).

QUALITATIVE


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (WTR4_BASELINE) as it relates to your current dish washing habits:

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

QUANTITATIVE
Using the corresponding spreadsheet (WTR4_QUANTITATIVE) to develop a plan to reduce dish washing water to 6 gallons of water/day or less. Water could be reduced in a variety of ways; If using a dishwasher which uses over 6 gallons per load, then consider a weekly budget of 42 gallons instead of a daily budget of 6 gallons. If handwashing, use a smaller basin or fill the sink lower, turn the rinse water off and on or use a separate rinsing basin and have no running water while doing the dishes.

QUALITATIVE
Part 1 - Ranking


Qualitative Scale

Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria, at the end of the project on the spreadsheet (WTR4_QUALITATIVE). Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

  • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
    (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

  • 2. CONVENIENCE
    (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

  • 3. HEALTH
    (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

  • 4. COST
    (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

Part 2 - Blogging
Keep a narrative log of your experiences as you implement this action and how it has affected your life. Some of the following questions might be helpful as you reflect upon your experiences.

What new strategies did you adopt to reduce your dish washing water use? What were the challenges? How did your experience changing this habit change over time?


resources

ACTION SPREADSHEETS

The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

WTR4_Change Dish Washing Habits Spreadsheet

If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

WTR4_BASELINE
WTR4_QUANTITATIVE
WTR4_QUALITATIVE