Splitting households is a resource-intensive ordeal.
Just over a decade ago, a study came out of Michigan State University, announcing that divorce is bad for the environment. Divorce is an unfortunate situation for many reasons, of course, but this was the first time that it had been assessed strictly through an environmental lens.
The researchers found that, when a household splits up, the two new households that replace it use between 42 and 61 percent more resources per person than before they separated. They also occupy between 33 and 95 percent more rooms per person than in married households.This makes sense. Everything has to double immediately, from the number of appliances (and it takes the same amount of energy to power a fridge that holds food for four as it does for one) to furniture, kitchenware, food staples, and water usage; and it's all being shared by fewer people at any given time.
This is not to say that a couple should avoid divorce for environmental reasons; that's not a good justification to stay in an unhappy relationship. But it is a valuable reminder of the importance of making a well-considered decision when it comes to choosing a partner so as to avoid a future split. Alternatively, you could choose to live with friends or family to reduce resource consumption. As Ralph Cavanaugh, lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told the Washington Post,
"The best advice to those who are miserable together is not, however, to avoid divorce for the sake of the environment, but to find someone else as quickly as possible."
The good news is, Millennials are doing precisely this -- probably more for their own sake than for the environment's, but hey, the planet isn't complaining! A report in Bloomberg this week states that Americans under the age of 45 are causing the divorce rate to plummet. It has dropped 18 percent between 2008 and 2016, and the change is largely attributed to young adults waiting longer to tie the knot. Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland who conducted the analysis, explains:
“One of the reasons for the decline is that the married population is getting older and more highly educated. Fewer people are getting married, and those who do are the sort of people who are least likely to get divorced. Marriage is more and more an achievement of status, rather than something that people do regardless of how they’re doing.”
With higher education and socio-economic status usually comes greater wealth and a more resource-intensive lifestyle, so if these are the people who are most likely to marry and stay married, that's a good thing all around.
It bears repeating that tending your own mental and physical wellbeing is more important than fretting about the environmental impact of a split, but this is interesting food for thought, nonetheless. Way to go, Millennials!