The first book I wrote about environmental issues was called Home Ecology, and was published in London in 1989 and in the United States in 1990. In it, I was something of a hairshirt environmentalist, critical of microwave ovens and also of dishwashers–neither of which, you’ll not be surprised to hear, I had in my tiny basement flat in London, where the kitchen was really just a little entrance hallway cramped with a stove and sink.

Since then, I’ve lightened up. Microwaves are astonishingly energy-efficient, and are not simply for the reheating of prepackaged meals. I use ours (my husband’s!) all the time for melting butter, toasting nuts and tortilles (yes, this really works), and reheating leftovers.

It’s hard to believe now that I, who love to cook and entertain, survived without a dishwasher and even proposed that others should, especially since my partner in London was not included to share in household tasks. Our dishwasher gave up the ghost recently–hardly a surprise, as it was here when we moved in in 1995–and my daughter’s conclusion is that washing dishes by hand is fun for two days.

The good news is that less water is used, in general, by using a dishwasher than by handwashing. That’s of course because when we do wash by hand we leave the tap running and are wasteful overall. But you can salve your conscious by becoming highly skilled about filling the dishwaster and then running it on the lowest energy setting.

For more, just put “water usage dishwashers” into a search engine: you’ll find plenty of information of what to do, and buy.

karen christensen's corona typewriter on t s eliot's desk

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