Considering that Bosch is the third largest maker of appliances in the world, it is heartening to learn how intently focused the company is on bringing greener, sleeker products to the market. We got to have a nice long chat with Bosch Brand Manager Danyel Tiefenbacher about the company's initiatives for resource efficiency and green design. Bosch, a company that is now part of TreeHugger's happy advertising family, is an entity we've had in our sights for a while: we've noted the Nexxt washer, commented on plans for ultrasonic technologies, and posted on the Protos project, an intriguing venture to bring biofuel cooking technology to village settings. Danyel sheds some more light on these projects and others.
Jacob Gordon: In a conventional scenario, how much of a home's typical energy use is going towards appliances like dishwashers, clothes washers, and refrigerators?
Danyel Tiefenbacher: Kitchen and laundry appliances account for about one third of household electricity consumption. Refrigerators, the biggest consumers among household appliances, are using 156 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. More electricity is used for refrigerators than for space heating, water heating, or lighting.Jacob: So, jumping up into more efficient, more state of the art technology like yours, what sort of energy and financial savings does that LEED us to?
Danyel: The savings easily offsets the initial premium you may have to pay for high efficiency appliances; but more importantly, the positive impact on the environment is even more dramatic. For example, in the United States this year, consumers will purchase over 10 million washing machines. If every one of these machines was a water efficient Bosch model, we could save over nine hundred billion gallons of water. To put this into perspective, this would be enough to supply a lifetime of drinking water to 67 million people.
Jacob: I get the feeling that Bosch considers itself part of the green building revolution, which is tied to issues of climate change, with human health, and with the whole ecological footprint of the built environment. When did Bosch decide these were big issues and how deep into the company does this ethic extend?
Danyel: Bosch has been a LEEDing manufacturer of energy efficient appliances for decades, and environmental protection is definitely part of our company philosophy. Robert Bosch, from the moment he founded the company in 1886, was committed to assuming social responsibility. To this day, our environmental principles of pursuing business by retaining this strict regard for the environment that we all depend on guide Bosch employees every day.
I'll give you a couple of historic landmarks in our company. In 1973, environmental protection became a permanent component of our corporate policy when we implemented our first environmental guideline. Since 1992, we publish our activities and data for environmental protection; and in 1993, just another outstanding example, Bosch introduced initiatives in refrigeration production that eliminated the use of CFCs globally.
An international steering committee, which is headquartered in Germany, is coordinating the worldwide implementation of our corporate environmental policy and all of Bosch's manufacturing sites. We have about 46 worldwide.
Here's another little-known fact about our company: Bosch is actually not a public company. It's owned by a non-profit organization. The Robert Bosch Foundation was established in 1964. It's a non-profit organization that holds 92% of the share capital of Bosch. It's part of the company tradition that the foundation utilizes its dividends for socially beneficial purposes. One current example for an environmental development project by the name of Protos https://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/09/bosch_launches.php , is a project that we're conducting in the Philippines for a couple of years now. Again, Protos https://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/09/bosch_launches.php is a project that's financed by the Robert Bosch Foundation. We'll be using our proceeds from the business to re-invest it into the environment.
Jacob: So, there is a lot of talk in the green design community about companies taking responsibility for their products; not just when they're sitting on the showroom floor, but throughout their entire life and then after they have lived their useful life. Especially with technology changing so fast, does Bosch have any plans for, say, take-back programs where they'll actually re-assume responsibility for the unit after it's served its purpose?
Danyel: Well, in some countries Bosch has been taking back appliances since 1994, and we're striving to establish 100% recycling in all Bosch locations globally.
In the United States, we took the first step for recycling in the US. Our appliances are already made out of 98% recyclable materials, and they're constructed in an eco-friendly way for easy disassembly and separation of the individual components and materials. However, at this point in time, we do not take back appliances yet, but we do have plans in the foreseeable future for this.
Jacob: One of the eco-tips that circulates around the green community is that using a dishwasher is more water and energy-efficient than hand-washing the dishes. Is that true?
Danyel: Absolutely true, yes. If you still wash your dishes by hand you are probably wasting more than just your time. A new Energy Star qualified dishwasher uses half as much energy as washing dishes by hand. Washing dishes with the dishwasher can cut utility bills by about 35 dollars per year.
Now, a number of Bosch dishwasher features result also in better cleaning than handwashing. For example, Bosch dishwashers boost water temperatures up to 161 degrees, well above scalding temperatures. Washing dishes with hotter water allows for improved disinfection compared to washing by hand at much lower temperatures.
Jacob: You mentioned Energy Star a minute ago, and especially being a European company doing business in the US, what are your opinions of the Energy Star standard, do you think it is setting the bar high enough?
Danyel: Bosch is a strong partner of the Energy Star program, and Energy Star has done an incredible job with transforming the market and educating the consumers about energy-efficient products. However, we at Bosch feel that the standard should be more stringent. Bosch's entire product offering today is Energy Star qualified in all rated categories, without exception. So the technology is definitely here. Now we rely on Energy Star to raise the bar for tomorrow. We need more stringent standards to continue to incentivize technological advancement in the appliances industry.
Jacob: And from what I understand there's also a partnership between the US Green Building Council's LEED program and Bosch. Can you tell me about that?
Danyel: Yeah, that is correct. The US is a bit behind the curve compared to Europe in terms of green building. LEED is the first successful attempt for a national green building standard and has experienced exponential growth over the last couple of years, especially in the commercial arena.
LEED is off to a great start, but to accelerate the amount of LEED certified buildings, especially LEED certified homes—LEED for Homes is a new standard that they created last year— we need to build awareness among consumers; not only about the ecological advantages, but also the economical advantages of green building. So, we look to the Europeans who are more advanced in their green thinking. I'm confident that the US Green Building Council will raise the bar as better educated consumers start to drive demand for more efficient buildings from manufacturers and builders.
(Please note: this "advertorial" interview was conducted as part of an advertising agreement between TreeHugger.com and Bosch)
For more on greener plate licking, check out How to Green Your Dishwasher