7 Sustainable and Eco Friendly Appliances to Cool, Cook & Clean Consciously
The first electrical appliance was the stove, invented in 1821, which means appliances have been making our lives easier for two centuries.
While there have been many innovations over the years, we still have a long way to go from a sustainability standpoint.
That’s partially due to the fact that most people don’t know what a sustainable or eco friendly appliance actually means (us included before writing this article).
Most “green” appliances focus on energy efficiency. While this is definitely an important way to reduce your carbon footprint at home, most appliance brands have yet to consider broader elements (and we’re not talking about the heating element in your oven).
The elements we’re talking about include ethics in the supply chain, toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, and exactly what can responsibly happen to that stove after its days of cooking are over.
The end of the article elaborates more on these.
This list includes the most sustainable appliances available today but it’s worth noting that when compared to some of the best sustainable fashion or beauty brands, appliance manufacturers are still a long way off from being truly sustainable.
With this in mind, we always recommend first buying secondhand. Ebay is a great place to do so!
If you need to buy new, Miele is considering how to design eco friendly appliances with 100% recyclable metals.
SMEG has made a commitment to rid their supply chain from toxic chemicals and have a few certifications to back up their efforts.
Beko covers all bases by making ethical and environmental improvements. They now have a washer/dryer combo machine made with recycled materials.
Now that we’re done preheating you for the brands to come, let’s bake, spin, and toast our way through these eco friendly appliances.
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Most of their washing machines, top dryers, and dishwashers meet the highest energy efficient A+++ category, with an increasing number of refrigerators and freezers falling into that category, too.
While you can expect a 20-year service life from any of their eco friendly appliances for your house, look specifically for ‘Performance Plus’ models of laundry appliances, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, ovens, hobs, refrigerators, wine coolers, freezers, and coffee systems.
Miele’s Ethical & Sustainability Practices
As per their most recent Sustainability Report, Miele has started to look at their supply chain and what improvements can be made.
Notable changes include reducing energy consumption by as much as 71% for some appliances (like tumble dryers) and increasing the number of energy-efficient appliances for each product group.
To close the loop, many Miele appliances are designed with easy recyclability in mind. In some cases, 100% of the metals can be recycled.
All Miele’s manufacturing partners are SA8000 certified, meaning no forced/child labor or discrimination. With a commitment to fair pay, many factory workers are paid above minimum wages to meet the local cost of living.
With a range of awards under their belt, this Italian eco friendly home appliances manufacturer prides themselves on durable consumer goods that offer both style and functionality.
SMEG’s selection includes ovens, hobs, coffee machines, cookers, dishwashers, eco friendly laundry appliances (washing machines and washer-dryers), hoods, refrigerators, and freezers.
SMEG’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
Many of the eco friendly kitchen appliances combine high performance with low consumption, meeting the highest energy efficiency class rating.
Materials like glass, steel, brass, and aluminum are prioritized because they’re easy to recycle.
We Beko-n your attention to this next maker of sustainable appliances.
Beko provides laundry machines and dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, kitchen stoves, air conditioners, microwaves, ovens, countertop appliances, and appliances for the office and entertainment.
Beko’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
In 2020, Beko cut their product’s energy consumption by 34% and water withdrawal by 31%. Since 2010, they’ve cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50%.
They’ve also been able to successfully recycle 97% of water required during manufacturing.
Embracing circularity in other ways, they sell a vacuum cleaner made from 90% recycled materials, incorporate recycled fishing nets into their ovens, and use recycled plastic bottles in their washer/dryer machine drums.
They’ve also worked with the first recycling company capable of capturing ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases from old refrigerators.
They have also worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) to provide African villages with solar refrigerators.
Available: Appliances Connection | Beko
Bosch has been one of the biggest companies for automotive, electrical, and industrial components since 1886 (!) —but most of us know them for their kitchen appliances and other products.
The company’s environmentally friendly appliances include refrigerators, dishwashers, cooktops and ranges, mixers, ovens, and washers and dryers—all of which are ENERGY STAR certified.
Bosch’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
In 2020, Bosch (and its 400 global locations) became climate neutral. They subsequently became the 2021 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year.
The company has also recently focused on human rights and is actively taking steps to improve conditions (particularly with raw materials extraction).
The Bosch Community Fund primarily supports organizations that advance environmental sustainability initiatives, but occasionally they support other nonprofit partners.
SodaStream wants to turn the La Croix addicts into eco-friendly drinkers. It may have carbon in the name, but carbonation doesn’t have to mean more CO2.
Their environmentally friendly kitchen appliances take the form of sparkling water makers. Instead of bottles and cans, you can make use of their reusable glass or BPA-free plastic bottles and make your own sodas and seltzers.
Just one can save a family up to 3,000 disposable bottles every year.
SodaStream’s Ethical & Sustainability Practices
With the purchase of some SodaStream carbonated water bottles, 10% of profits are donated to ocean conservation.
They’ve also made a commitment to switch away from both plastic flavor bottles and virgin plastic appliances. Instead, they’re working towards sparkling water makers made from recycled or plant-based materials.
By 2022, 10% of their total energy requirements will be supplied by solar energy. This also supports their parent company (PepsiCo—which admittedly still has a long way to go in terms of sustainability) in their efforts to use 100% renewables by 2030.
Available: SodaStream | Best Buy
LG has become a household name when it comes to appliances.
Their product line includes energy-efficient TVs, speakers, air conditioners, vacuums, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers, and eco friendly small kitchen appliances.
LG’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
LG’s sustainability commitments are based on three pillars: to promote an intelligent lifestyle, realize zero carbon and circular economy, and create a better society.
To break this down, by 2030, they hope to have 80% eco-certified products, achieve a 95% recycle rate of waste from production, and establish volunteer programs in every country they do business in.
They do not source conflict minerals from the DRC or adjoining countries that benefit armed groups.
Samsung is one of the world’s largest producers of electronics and appliances.
Their product range is massive, and their eco friendly appliances list is nearly as long: refrigerators, ranges, wall ovens, cooktops, dishwashers, microwaves, washers, dryers, vacuums, and air purifiers.
Samsung’s Ethical & Sustainability Practices
Two Samsung dishwashers made Energy Star’s 2021 Most Efficient Dishwashers list.
98% of their recently developed products are considered to be environmentally conscious.
From 2009-2020, energy efficiency improvements have reduced 250 million tons of greenhouse gasses from the use of their products. During the same period, they’ve also collected and recycled more than 3.8 million tons of waste.
Working with more than 2,200 supply chain partners, Samsung performs audits to ensure that forced/child labor isn’t present and workers are guaranteed a minimum wage.
WHY BUY ECO FRIENDLY APPLIANCES
Environmental concerns are relevant at every stage of an appliance’s lifecycle—from raw material sourcing to their end-of-life fate.
The main materials in most household appliances fall into two categories (both of which have environmental concerns): metal and plastic.
Even the most sustainable appliances are mostly made with metal, which needs to be mined.
Small appliances, on the other hand, are typically made with mostly plastic.
In the EU alone, it’s estimated that appliance production requires a whopping six million tonnes of raw materials—three million tonnes of stainless steel and 1.1 million tonnes of plastic.
This is just a fraction of global material consumption.
Not only do the materials require fossil fuels and/or lead to mining complications like erosion, deforestation, sinkholes, contaminated water, and worker harm, but then they’re oftentimes transformed into appliances in an equally damaging way.
While some appliance manufacturers are using more renewable energy, much of the industry’s production is made possible with significant amounts of gas, coal, or oil.
It also requires tremendous volumes of water—enough that the UK’s Environment Agency has estimated that the country won’t have enough available water to meet demands within 25 years.
Then the toxic wastewater has to be dumped somewhere, as do the appliances when they are no longer functional or wanted.
The average American household gets rid of 44 pounds of electrical appliances every year. Much of this ends up in landfills, releasing toxic chemicals while it slowly breaks down (leaving some components that will never break down).
Our recycling rates are getting better—roughly 60% for all metals in appliances in the US—but we’re still sending about half of the produced appliances directly to landfills.
Like many other industries, there are several human rights and ethical concerns that come with appliances.
Between instances of human trafficking to produce semiconductors in washing machines and refrigerators, to the simple fact that just ten appliance companies account for around 66% of the world’s electronics—there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Unfortunately, even our list of eco friendly home appliances is tarnished by some of these concerns.
Similarly, Samsung’s reputation has been tarnished by several incidents of workers dying after being exposed to harmful materials.
While many companies are taking steps to try to produce more ethical appliances, most have massive supply chains and limited transparency.
Which is where we, as consumers, step in.
HOW WE FOUND THE MOST SUSTAINABLE & ECO FRIENDLY APPLIANCES
Recycled materials are the key thing to look for with eco friendly and ethical appliances.
This means brands using either easy-to-recycle materials (like glass, steel, brass, and aluminum) or incorporating recycled materials (like plastic) into some of their environmentally friendly household appliances.
It also means non-toxic materials!
Supply chain and labor practices:
We look for certifications or audits to ensure supply chains are free of forced/child labor, commitment to improving conditions during raw material sourcing, and payment of above minimum wages to be closer to living wages.
We also ask: Do they have a transparent supply chain and actually know the thousands of partner factories they work with so as to fully understand what conditions are provided there?
Green business practices:
Designing energy-efficient products is, of course, the number one consideration here. However, climate neutrality, renewable energy use, water recycling, and improvements that cut greenhouse gas emissions are also indications that an appliance company is trying to make positive changes.
Appropriate materials can only do so much, so we also look for products designed for long service life and circular economy (AKA zero waste) practices.
- Certifications: Energy Star
How lo look for eco friendly and ethical appliance brands
Aside from laying our criteria above, we wanted to make it even easier for you to assess the sustainability of that stove you’ve been eyeing.
Here are some tips next time you go appliance shopping:
- Second hand appliances: Second hand is the best option for appliances unless the used product is dated, in which case it may be worse for the environment. An old refrigerator may use three times as much energy as a new one, for instance.
- Energy efficiency: If everyone in the U.S. were to switch to energy-efficient appliances, the equivalent of 23 million cars of greenhouse gasses would be avoided. Fortunately, looking for high-efficiency appliances is easy.
- The EnergyGuide label will show the annual energy consumption and operating cost for the appliance.
- The Energy Star label will be found on all products that meet specific energy efficiency standards.
- Smart appliances can be connected to home energy management systems or smart electric meters to use electricity more efficiently during off-peak hours.
- In the EU, individual classes use the letters A to D, with A being the most energy-efficient. Dark green is highly efficient, while red is less efficient. The more plus (+) signs, the more energy-efficient the appliance. A+++ appliances are 48% more energy-efficient than A+ appliances.
- Quality and longevity: Has the product been designed to last? Is it made from quality materials? Even better, does it come with a warranty or options for easy repair/part replacement?
- End of life policies: Even a new, well-built appliance will eventually reach the end of its life. What happens then? Has the manufacturer considered the recyclability of its materials? Do they have a program to collect and properly recycle the appliance? Does the appliance contain toxic materials that will wreak havoc in a landfill?
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ECO FRIENDLY APPLIANCES
Whether we realize it or not, we’re surrounded by appliances all the time.
Many of which are produced by multi-billion dollar companies that haven’t received as much consumer pressure as other industries, like ethical jewelry and sustainable beauty.
The status quo is clearly not good enough, so if you’re in the market for a new appliance, be sure to reach out to ask your favorite companies about what they’re doing to show real leadership.
If you’re not in need of a new appliance, don’t let shiny stainless steel or retro-designs get you! Don’t buy a new appliance if it’s not necessary.
Finally, since we all use appliances to make modern life easier, pass this article around so we can get more people talking about and demanding more eco friendly and ethical appliances.