Megan: I love those little individually wrapped automatic dishwasher detergent tablets. But how many ways can these be wrong for the environment? Argh. And expensive! Those phosphate-free brands with the retro-looking labels look so old-fashioned and fun.
Tony: But which is cheaper, tablets, powder, or gel? And are any of those greenwashed "eco" versions of the regular brands any good? This is going to take some number collection and some background investigation.
Megan: Also, isn't using the dishwasher itself pretty wasteful? Is it really better to handwash? I almost don't want to hear the answer to that question...
Claire and I set out today to the grocery store, determined to find an answer to the green dishwasher problem. Here's what we found.
Green Attempt #1: Palmolive Eco. This is corporate greenwashing at its finest: just slap eco on the label, color the bottle white, and call it a day. Costs about $4 and contains no phosphates but does contain chlorine bleach. Not exactly "eco".
Green Attempt #2: Mrs Meyers Clean Day automatic dishwasher soap. We found this on sale at TJ Maxx for $4.99 but it was lavender scented and made all our plastic items (think: reusable coffee mugs) smell like lavender. Nothing like a little sickening lavender scent in your coffee! Blech. No phosphates, no bleach, but the whole aromatherapy thing isn't really working when it's dishes/food that are involved.
Green Attempt #3: Seventh Generation automatic dishwashing tablets sounded great but they don't exist in our regular shopping routes, so I'll have to remember to look for them the next time I drive to Harris Teeter. I did go ahead and join the Seventh Generation Nation for the coupons...
Green Attempt #4: Handwashing using Seventh Generation dish soap versus using the dishwasher. Turns out that the answer to which is greener is not so easy. Treehugger helps me understand the issues, but in general it's more green to use a dishwasher, as long as it's full and as long as the detergents are eco-friendly, and as long as we don't use the heated drying.
One final note: all these options require plastic containers for the liquid or cardboard for the box and plastic for the tablets. It would be cool if there were a place where we could use our own glass mason jars to get bulk soap, sort of like using the bulk bins for grains and stuff at Weaver Street Market. Vanessa talked about this in Sleeping Naked is Green but she lived in Toronto. I've never heard of this around here.
I'll put this down for a win in the Planet column. None of these options are as cheap as buying regular detergent.
Pocket: 5, Planet: 7, Win-Win: 21