March 4. 2024. 8:47

The Daily

Read the World Today

Top Tips to reduce your dishwashing Carbon footprint


Data from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) suggests that in 2022, global greenhouse emissions increased[1]. Reducing carbon footprints, however big or small these footprints might be, has never been so important. While consumers are keen to improve their actions in the outside world, some of the answers to reducing our personal carbon footprints could be right under our roofs.

Household chores are something people take for granted and do like clockwork. But do people ever stop to think of emissions associated with each chore? Many household chores can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, but the size of the carbon footprint varies depending on how a chore is done. For example, when washing dishes, the volume of emissions created may depend on how people choose to get their dishes clean.

Reducing dishwashing’s carbon footprint might feel like a very small thing to do. But the EU’s Green Deal has set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So, understanding how carbon emissions are generated at home and finding ways to reduce them is one of the consumer sustainability challenges that needs to be cracked.

In fact, small behavioural changes – such as changing the way people wash dishes – if made by everyone in society can lead to big reductions in carbon emissions.

The Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) conducted by P&G for its Fairy and Dreft brands reveal that most of the carbon footprint related to dishwashing, both by hand and in a machine, is caused by the way people use products in the home. This is because the processes associated with heating the water generate the majority of carbon emissions. On average, these processes cause 93%[2] of hand dishwashing’s carbon footprint and 72%[3] of the carbon footprint when using a machine.

Consequently, a key intervention to reduce dishwashing’s carbon footprint is to change consumer habits when doing the dishes. These changes can be very simple. For example, hand dish washing with cooler water and selecting different machine cycles, such as switching from a normal or auto cycle to a short cycle, of 55 minutes or less, would reduce the carbon emissions of a person’s dish washing routine.

However, for routines to change and habits to stick, consumers must feel they do not have to rely on compensating behaviours, including pre-rinsing dishes before going into the machine, or re-washing. These trade-offs may also come at a further environmental cost, as these actions lead to yet more emissions being associated with dishwashing. Efficacy of a product is therefore paramount to enabling new dish washing habits and avoiding compensating behaviours.

The potential impact of supporting consumers in adopting new dish washing habits through product efficacy is significant. Especially as even if our energy grids do become progressively greener, product use at home is expected to remain a key contributor to a household’s dishwashing carbon footprint.

On average, consumers could reduce their dishwashing carbon footprint by a thirdiii if they select short cycles (of 55 minutes or less) instead of normal or auto machine cycles. This rises to a potential average saving of up to 60%ii of a person’s dishwashing carbon footprint if handwashing temperatures to reduced 23°C.

Educational campaigns inviting consumers to switch from normal to short[4] cycles and handwash cooler are already running in many European countries. For example, P&G’s Fairy and Dreft have recently launched campaigns explaining how adopting new dish washing habits can help to save energy, and therefore reduce related carbon emissions.

With this in mind, it is positive to see that the preliminary findings from the Joint Research Centre’s Science for Policy Report. The findings recognise the role product efficacy can play in helping to realise the Green Deal’s targets, and more widely the EU’s sustainability goals. The draft report, which will inform the European Commission’s Eco-design for Sustainable Products regulation (ESPR), highlights a product’s in-use phase as an area with potential for improvement. Cleaning efficacy at cold temperatures is cited as the “main potential improvement measure.[5]” While this is promising, it is crucial that policymakers consider how scientific innovation for efficacy can help change consumer behaviour, particularly when reviewing the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability (CSS).

Unlocking innovation in the Dish Care industry, and more broadly to the Home Care sector, is a strategy that will empower consumers to change how they approach cleaning at home. But the industry can only innovate if the policy landscape enables it to progress. In this light, it is crucial for EU Green Deal legislation to take a holistic view of a product’s carbon emissions.

[1] WMO, Provisional State of the Global Climate 2022: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/5417cd9148c248c0985a5b6d028b0277

[2] Simplified breakdown of ISO certified LCA based on 10 selected European countries,2023. Reduction of the carbon footprint when moving to 23C.

[3] Simplified breakdown based on LCA Pending ISO certification, 10 European & Middle Eastern Countries, 2023. Excluding pre-rinse. Reduction of the carbon footprint when moving from normal/auto to short cycle (cycles of 55 minutes or less).

[4] Cycles of 55 minutes or less.

[5] JRC Science for Policy Report, Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation – preliminary study on new product priorities (draft report)