Could You Unplug Your Refrigerator, For Good?

Row of Old Refrigerators Photo

Image via: Marco Traerso -

The New York Times reports today that a small, but growing, segment of the US population is choosing to ditch the fridge permanently. The carbon savings, not to mention the savings on the electricity bill are not necessarily huge. Yet some feel this is just the next thing on the long list of climate-saving actions like buying a Prius, changing to compact fluorescent lightbulbs and eating local. But something like this takes a little bit of preparation as well as a modification to diet and food prep. Unplugging ones' fridge just upped the carbon footprint ante. Here's how they did it:We've reported in the past on Energy Star refrigerators, as well as, other DIY modifications that anyone can make to their fridge to boost efficiency. But what if that just wasn't good enough? "I need more savings" you say. "Smaller footprint," you cry. Well both homeowners and apartment dwellers are joining the bandwagon, with a little preparation.

How Does it Work?

Several of the folks interviewed reported that they use a small cooler, filled with plastic water bottles and keep a tiny fridge around for freezing the water bottles and for a few odds and ends. As the anti-fridge movement is growing, websites are being created to share tips on food prep and storage, as well as, ways to still keep beer cold and waiting for you when you get home from work. Other folks, mainly those already used to a mainly bean and grain diet, are able to get away without a fridge at all and have an easier time making the jump. Those ditching the fridge note that they eat more in tune with the seasons, and eat more (or predominantly only) fresh food. It feeds into this romantic idea of living in simpler times.

How Much Energy Does a Fridge Use?

A standard Energy Star fridge uses about "380-kilowatts a year - less than a standard clothes dryer - and costs a homeowner $40 a year, or about 11 cents a day." Downgrading to a smaller, mini-fridge only saves about $6 a year. So why go to all of the effort to uproot conventional eating habits? Would it actually do more harm than good if more trips to the store means more car trips and possibly more wasted food? Well, it would depend on how far you are willing to go - if you can unplug your fridge, negotiate the commute to the store via bike, and only consume what you need then you might be able to come out on top.

Why Some Can't Ditch the Fridge?

Ditching the fridge doesn't come without its drawbacks and for some the benefits don't outweigh the costs. Without a small fridge or cooler backup system, you can't save any leftovers and thus must only prepare what you can consume. If you can get by without eating dairy and meat, then you also have a better chance of getting by without needing a backup system. In addition, trips to the grocery store will become more frequent as you must also purchase what you will use that day and purchase items in smaller quantities. For larger families, this may be an impracticality. Also, prepared (frozen) meals will be a thing of the past, unless you use them in the mini-fridge for storage and also as stand-ins for ice.

For those unable to unwilling to ditch the fridge, the article offers a few ways to green your fridge:
- Clean the coils coils at least once a year (or every 3 months if you have pets)
- Get a fridge with an alarm so you know when the door is ajar and leaking air
- Keep the fridge out of direct sunlight and away from the oven so that it doesn't have to work extra hard to stay cool
- Choose a model with the freezer on top instead of side by side

:New York Times
More on Refrigerator Efficiency
Buy Green: Bottom Freezer Refrigerator Options
Footprint Cooking: 5 Easy Ways to Green Your Fridge
Greening a Home, One Fridge (And Rebate) at a Time
Hummer of Fridges Goes Green
Getting Rid of the Fridge: Big Step or Small?

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