Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

Washing the dishes

Right now thousands of people are washing dishes.  Both dishwashers and people are using that abundant supply of water to clean their dirty dishes.  However, we all know that water is fast becoming scarce.  It’s not abundant. So does this feel right?

I recently zoomed into a session run by Reckitt.  It’s a huge holding company with three category-focused global business units across hygiene, health, and nutrition.  As consumers, you know Reckitt for its brands such as Finish, Harpic, Nurofen, Durex, Dettol, Strepils, Gaviscon, Mucinex, Schiff, and many more.  With over 43,000 employees, £14 billion in revenues, and 20m products solid daily, Reckitt wears its 200+ years of heritage well.

The numbers: washing the dishes

So I stood up and took notice when they shared how they embraced their sustainability development goals.  More specifically, they shared three facts that shocked me into action.

Water usedDoing what?
100 litresHanding washing dishes
60 litresPrewashing dishes by hand, finishing in the dishwasher
10 litresDishwasher only

Hand washing uses 10x as much water as a dishwasher! Every wash. Every day. Put another way, handwashing is 10x more costly to the planet’s water scarcity challenge than dishwashing (if you have and use a dishwasher of course).

How can this be?  Simple.  Dishwashers are smart.  They re-use and clean the same water multiple times throughout the cycle.  Where, by hand, we wash, rinse, and repeat with the tap in near always-on mode.  

The change: let the dishwasher do its job

I live in Seattle and had a friend over to stay from NYC. She’s so much fun. So after lunch, we got to washing the dishes. That’s when I got chastised for not doing enough to prewash the dishes. During the same visit, I unpacked the entire dishwasher load only to learn that the cycle hadn’t gone around. That’s right, the pre-wash was so good it had fooled me. And then came another round of silly Cleve.

Knowledge is power. How I wish I was armed with what I know now.

So there are better techniques.  Firstly, you can pre-scrap. Secondly, reduce the amount of water you pre-wash dishes with today.  Lastly, invest in better dishwashers if and when you can.  But most importantly, you can share what you now know with others. Please do!

Category: sustainability

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About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Wunderman Thompson North America where we are passionate about customer experience platforms.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently doing.