There is a surprising amount of info on the dishes by hand vs. dishwasher eco-controversy on the web. Of course it really all comes down to specifics of the method just like the cloth vs. disposable diaper issue…
Anyway, for those who don’t own a 2.5 gallon (9 liter) per wash energy star dishwasher, here is my method for washing dishes ecologically by hand with less than 1 gallon of hot water:
-Take the largest dirty dish/pot you have (usually for me a 2 quart/liter pot, sometimes a big soup bowl) and squirt in a small squirt of eco-friendly dish detergent (I buy mine in a 5-gallon pail and refill small containers and use it for everything from hair cleaning to laundry as well)
-fill or partially fill container with warm water. It doesn’t have to be super hot unless you have some nasty thing you are trying to kill – out of the ordinary.
-wash dishes, rinsing with a small amount of cold water from the tap (not left running). You could fill a small clean container with rinse water, but I don’t.
-if I use a particularly small bowl for the wash water, I sometimes need to refill it before the sink-full of dishes is all done. This almost always ends up being a total of less than a gallon of hot water for a sink stacked high.
It helps to not cook and eat greasy foods – these foul the water more quickly and take a hotter temperature to get really clean. It helps to not eat a lot of meat because then you don’t have to worry too much about salmonella etc.
Any other methods? There are plenty out there that are all good for various families and the specifics of use in the house!