Green Living: Are Your Dishes Good for the Environment?

Green Living: Are Your Dishes Good for the Environment?

Deirdre-MundyPosted by Deirdre Mundy, guest blogger

You try to make environmentally conscious choices in most parts of your life, but have you thought about your dishes? If you want to take your green living to the next level, it’s time to move beyond what you eat and look at how you eat it. Here are a few things to consider when you think about your dishware choices.

Friendly Footprints
When it comes to carbon footprints, disposable dishes aren’t always as bad as you think. An environmental impact study from the University of British Columbia found that a single china plate has to be used 200 times before it has the same carbon footprint as a disposable dish. For most people, this is an achievable goal. If you have hard floors and small children, however, it may be more eco-friendly to switch to disposable dishware for a few years, especially if you frequently replace broken plates, bowls, and cups.

Water Wasters
Do you live in an area that experiences frequent water shortages? If you do, reusable plates may not be your best option for green dishware. That’s because, in some areas, the environmental impact of washing dishes actually outweighs the issues with disposable dishes. If you live in certain desert areas, disposable may be the most responsible choice.

Meanwhile, if you live in an area with plenty of water, your dishwashing method can make a difference. If you own an older dishwasher, washing dishes by hand may reduce your power and water consumption. If, on the other hand, you have a new, energy efficient dishwasher, you actually save water and power when you let the machine do the work. Just make sure to run full loads, to scrape dishes before you load them, and to select the air dry option.

Manufacturing Pollution
How were your dishes manufactured? Initially, paper or Styrofoam plates actually have a smaller environmental impact than reusable dishware. Many disposable dishes are actually manufactured in the United States, which has fairly stringent pollution laws. Meanwhile, reusable dishes are often made in developing nations with poor pollution controls.

If you’re buying a new set of dishes, check the country of origin to make sure that you’re not supporting a company which creates toxic air, soil, and water in the developing world. Check out your local artisans, and see if you can purchase a set of sustainable, locally made dishes instead of mass-produced ones.

green living: dishesReusing and Recycling
Technology has made green living easier. Innovative companies sell compostable plates made from plant starches and even fallen palm leaves. In addition, some municipalities will recycle no. 6 polystyrene plates. Do a little research, and if you decide to go disposable, pick the plate that will have the smallest impact.

If you’re going to eat off reusable plates, think used for an even smaller impact. Thrift stores and rummage sales usually have wide selections of dishware. If you’re willing to mix and match a bit, you can pick up cool vintage dishes for very little cost. You’ll be able to rest easy, knowing that your new dishware didn’t increase CO2 levels or soil and water pollution.

How do you minimize the environmental impact of your dishware? Leave a comment!

Image source: Midorisyu on Flickr