A message’s messenger matters: the story of cleaning plates

Washed dishes
Image by Eak K. from Pixabay.

This headline from The Independent is typical of much recent media coverage:

Anger as Johnson’s Cop26 spokeswoman Allegra Stratton suggests ‘not rinsing dishes’ to tackle climate crisis

The suggestion is that people with dishwashers can save on water, and so help the environment, by not rinsing their plates and bowls before putting them in the dishwasher.

It’s the sort of advice – something that helps the planet a little and which saves you a little bit of time and/or money – which is commonplace. You find these sort of tips all the time online, in books and in the media.

But when it’s a government spokesperson saying it, that media coverage flips from ’31 helpful tips for our audience, including dishes’ to ‘outrage over dishes’. But it’s more than just the media. It’s how we all react too, because the meaning given to a message varies depending on the context.

In this case, the advice – the message – is just the same. But its reception varies depending on the messenger.

More on messaging, of course, in 101 Ways To Win An Election, now out in a third edition.

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One response to “A message’s messenger matters: the story of cleaning plates”

  1. In this case it is deeply flawed advice. If you put dishes and plates in the machine which have still got food debris on them then the the detergent tablet you need to use to clean them has to contain stronger chemicals to do the job. Also the machine’s filter is more likely to get clogged and therefore become less efficient.
    Part of the answer is to a) get people to eat everything on their plates, b) scrape any residues off into your food waste receptacle first.
    Anyway, we don’t need to have food ‘waste’, if any leftovers go out for the birds (or the fox..)
    A better solution to water shortages is to make the private water companies invest more in fixing leaks more quickly and in upgrading their victorian pipework. The amount used in rinsing plates(or in a running tap whilst brushing your teeth) is microscopic in comparison to the wastage as a result of poorly managed and maintained infrastructure.

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