Life on Tapp: Mountain to climb to tackle climate change

When a senior government figure suggested that we could all do the planet a favour by not rinsing dirty plates before putting them in the dishwasher, there was a cacophony of guffaws from political opponents.

Saturday, 7th August 2021, 9:00 pm
NATIONAL TALKING POINT: Dishwasher etiquette.

When a senior government figure suggested that we could all do the planet a favour by not rinsing dirty plates before putting them in the dishwasher, there was a cacophony of guffaws from political opponents.

The official in question, Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s climate spokeswoman, is a former Newsnight journalist and must’ve had more than a hunch that the piece she wrote for a national newspaper, which also suggested that freezing unused bread and walking to the shops could help avert a global crisis, would make headlines during Silly Season.

However, she probably didn’t bank on receiving quite as much stick as she did from critics such as Green MP Caroline Lucas, who posted on social media ‘Yeah, that’ll fix it’ and others who accused the government of being out of touch, owing to the fact that only half of UK households boast a dishwasher.

Personally, I took Ms Stratton’s intervention as vindication for the stubborn stance that I have adopted for the best part of a decade, which is to never willingly rinse a dishwasher-bound plate unless it resembles David Hockney’s apron.

It’s a hill that I have long been prepared to die on, not because I have ever considered the environmental benefits, but because of what Mrs Tapp describes as a new level of bone idleness.

The way I see it, the dishwasher is the daddy of all labour-saving devices, which means that I refuse to invest anything more than minimum effort when both loading and emptying ours.

If we are being totally honest with ourselves, unless you live with an entire rugby first 15, nobody really needs a dishwasher in their home and all they actually achieve is to increase tensions within families up and down the country.

In our house, the act of both loading and unloading our Fairy-approved (the washing up liquid, not the little people at the bottom of the garden) appliance is afforded the same status as would’ve been given to a 10-mile round trip to the nearest well some several hundred years ago.

Who has undertaken the less-than-arduous task of taking precisely seven minutes to stack a day’s worth of plates and mugs back into cupboards has the moral high ground for the rest of the day.

Even though I don’t shy away from such duties, more often than not, I stand accused of not loading our machine ‘correctly’. Knives are said to be routinely placed the wrong way and the top tier, reserved for mugs and glasses, are always overloaded. Apparently. In my experience, everybody has a special way of doing it.

I never cease to be amazed by how many people insist that everything that goes through a hot wash must be rinsed beforehand. If you’re going to the trouble of turning on a tap then why not put the plug in the sink and go the whole hog and wash up by hand?

It’s been pointed out by some that if you did clean everything beforehand, you could end up using four times as much water.

The fact that dishwasher etiquette has become a national talking point in recent days should shame us all as it only serves to illustrate how reliant we’ve become on gadgets and appliances. If anything, this row deflected attention away from the fact that there is still a mountain to climb before we can honestly say we are doing enough to tackle climate change.