The Refrigerator: Cause of Energy Waste or Solution to Food Waste?

The New York Times' article "Trashing the Fridge" was a great example of passionate environmentalists on both sides of an issue without a clear-cut right or wrong.

For those on the anti-fridge side, coolers, maybe a small freezer, frequent trips to the grocery store and smart planning have helped eliminate the need for that large appliance in the center of the kitchen. Those coming down on the pro-refrigerator side say that wasting food and making more trips to the grocery store, not to mention restructuring their eating habits, doesn't add up in carbon savings.

Read more about the pros and cons of refrigerators. If you're not ready to give yours up, the article has some tips for making your fridge more energy efficient:

  • Once a year, unplug the refrigerator and clean the door gaskets and compressor coils; if there are pets in the house, clean the coils every three months.

  • Buy a refrigerator that has the freezer on top, a configuration that is more efficient than a side-by-side model (in part, because it is generally smaller). Also, choose an Energy Star-rated unit, which is up to 20 percent more efficient.

  • Try not to open the door too often, to limit the frequency with which the compressor runs, and choose a model that comes with an alarm to warn that the door is ajar.

  • Don’t place the refrigerator next to the oven or in a spot that receives direct sunlight. The higher the ambient temperature, the more the unit has to work to keep cool.

Another solution is to build greener refrigerators. If you want to try and build one yourself, check out this DIY project.

The question reminded me of the website Fridgewatcher, a site where you can send a photo of the inside of your fridge. It's actually a pretty interesting window into people's lifestyles from around the world. I noticed that some of the fridges from Europe and Asia were smaller than the ones i'm accustomed to in the US. Think that the US is alone in possessing the SUV equivalent of refrigerators? According to an article from Grist, refrigerator sizes are actually on the rise, at least in the UK. and standards for energy efficiency vary from place to place, with ENERGY STAR ratings only gradually being adopted abroad.

Fridgewatcher is also really interesting in that it shows how much packaging and how many processed foods are being bought nearly everywhere in the world, not just North America.

Fridge from Italy via Fridgewatcher. Click for full size.

Tags: Appliance efficiency, Culture, Food packaging, Food waste, Fridge, Refrigerator

« Back to Blog



Connect with Us