Two weeks ago, I chatted with chef John Cox about his switching to an air compressor to “scrape” the dishes and pots and pans at Sierra Mar, his restaurant at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. It’s a brilliant idea, which if adopted across the industry could potentially save billions—no, that’s not a typo—of gallons of water a year.
Now it’s my turn to come clean.
I need to rethink how I do the dishes. My wife laughs at me for “prewashing” the dishes, running water and a sponge over my pots and pans before putting them in the machine. I’ve always riposted: “The dishwasher will kill the germs, but it won’t free rice. Or get the baked-on egg or tomato sauce.”
It turns out I’m not only wasting water, I’m wasting time. You can use a knife or spatula and scrape remaining food bits into a compost bin and let your dishwasher take it from there. If your washer is working properly, it should both clean and sanitize. It's about as easy as the ad above, which ran in Sunset nearly 50 years ago, promises.
And if you collect your compost, you’ll have a double water savings—because you’re not rinsing your plates and you’re not running water so the garbage disposal can do its thing (the disposal can take four gallons of water a minute).
And if you’re “cultivating” your compost, you could potentially find a third water savings by using the finished compost as mulch, which helps your plants retain water and keeps evaporation levels down.
Do you have any silly habits that use up water, or is it just me?