This is part of myseries: 20 Ways to Go Green that Make a Difference. This series discusses practical ways we can go green in our lives, that will have a measurable effect on the environment. This is an alternative to the many lists that offer 100+ suggestions, many of which are not easily applied to our lives or the impact isminimal.
Of course it is probably more green to wash your clothes and dishes by hand, but with modern green technology, the difference is fairly minimal. Also, this series is seeking to provide practical ways to go green that will actually have results. In the words of some economist, "the low hanging fruit."
This tip follows the same thought process as driving less. Strive to get the maximum utility out of the energy we use. In the case of driving you don't take a trip for each errand, instead wait until you have a number of stops to make and hit them all at once. In this case, when you have dirty dishes or laundry wait until you have a full load to run the washing machine.
These machines are designed to run with full loads, and are more efficient this way. Waiting for a full load will conserve water, electricity and cleaning soap in one fell swoop.
Don't wear your clothes just a single time. Often they aren't dirty yet, and can be worn a couple more times. The less often you wash a piece of clothing, the longer it lasts. Also there is more $ in your pocket from spending less on energy and using cleaning soap slower.
For dishes, wash off sticky sauces by hand before putting in the dishwasher, so you don't have to wash again after the cycle. Also feel free to wash by hand if you have time, but make sure to shut the water off while scrubbing.
A final step is to not overuse soap. It is bad for the machine and will cause it to break down earlier. Also you will conserve more soap. Consider eco-friendly soap options if your budget can afford it.