People always think that the appliances around the turn of the century were the best for the environment because they lasted so much longer than they do now. Litter-wise, that may be true, but man did they soak up energy (although if you liked the AGA Cooker in the film, Practical Magic, the company's newer models use just as much energy as most standard ovens and provide multiple uses, which could save even more energy in the long run)!
When shopping for appliances, it's all about least impact available while still within your budget; nothing will be perfect, so be realistic. Also, buy for what you need, not what you want. For example, consider how much food your family actually eats and not wastes, and purchase the refrigerator that holds only this amount. Same thing for the size of an oven or dishwasher. First thing's first: where does it come from? Overseas shipping a plethora of heavy appliances uses up a lot of carbon dioxide, so look for domestic-made (such as Maytag or Whirlpool in the US). Secondly, does that manufacturer offer recycling programs when you're done with the product or are their products made from upcycled materials?
saving water and cash
For laundry appliances, shop for front loaders because they use less water than top loaders (average savings of 9,000 gallons per year). Low-flow toilets use less water as well, yes, but they don't always...ahem...get the job done. So, concentrate the real bathroom water-user: the shower. Obviously, you can take quicker and less showers, but you can also get a low-flow shower head which saves an average 40% in water use than a standard. Also, look for ceramic disc valves for your sink faucets as it helps to prevent any drips. Not only does this save water, since we use half of the world's available freshwater, but over time it saves us cash, as well!
The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy came together and made a baby called, Energy Star. Energy Star is a program designed for consumers to identify energy-saving products (and in some cases, entire buildings!), by being certified with its logo. Though not having the most strict guidelines, Energy Star appliances do save much more energy and water consumption than non-certified. For example, one neat feature for some Energy Star front-load washing machines are that they actually weigh the clothing for each cycle to determine the best amount of water to use. Their dishwashers generally run 41% less energy than the federal minimum standard, with cooler water. Their air purifiers save about 225 kWh per year than a standard model, and their dehumidifiers operate about 30% less energy. And the list goes on. So, though Energy Star appliances may run a little more for the initial cost than other styles, you will quickly save far more over time.