The holidays involve a lot of entertaining and all that entails—cooking, dirty dishes, and loads of laundry. You can do it all without throwing money down the drain along with the extra water you're using and the energy it takes to heat it. The folks at WaterSense, the conservation program run by the Environmental Protection Agency, suggest some simple ways to save that your guests won't even notice.
In the kitchen
- Don't run the tap when washing dishes in the sink. Instead, plug the drain and fill the sink with soapy water or use a plastic wash basin. This will significantly reduce the amount of water you use, according to WaterSense.
- According to Energy Star, dishwashers built before 1994 can use as much as 10 gallons of water per cycle. Even if you have a newer model, make sure it's fully loaded each time you run it. This reduces the number of loads.
- Save yourself some elbow grease by only scraping the food scraps off the plate and letting the dishwasher do the rest. Don't scrub them clean first. And avoid using the "rinse hold" on your machine for just a few soiled dishes. It uses 3-7 gallons of hot water each time.
- Instead of letting the faucet run until the water is cool, fill a pitcher with water and store it in the refrigerator. When you serve dinner, put an ice-cold pitcher of water on the table.
- Instead of running hot water over frozen foods, thaw them out in the microwave or overnight in the refrigerator.
- Garbage disposals use water to break down the food inside. If you can accommodate one, consider adding food wastes to a compost pile instead of tossing them down the garbage disposal.
In the laundry
- Wash your clothes in cold water using cold-water detergents whenever possible. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half.
- Wash and dry full loads. If you are washing a small load, use the appropriate water-level setting.
- Dry towels and heavier cottons in a separate load from lighter-weight items.
- Don't over-dry your clothes. Rely on a moisture sensor, which automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry.
- Clean the lint screen in the dryer after every load to improve air circulation and prevent fire hazards.
- Use the cool-down cycle to allow the clothes to finish drying with the heat remaining in the dryer.
In the long term
If you're shopping for a new washer or dishwasher, look for Energy Star models. Energy Star clothes washers use 50 percent less water and 37 percent less energy than standard washers. Energy Star dishwashers are required to use 5.8 gallons of water per cycle or less. In its washing machine tests, Consumer Reports tests both water and energy efficiency. We also test dishwashers for energy use and measure cycle times.
—Mary H.J. Farrell