Photo: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock

Unplugging the Fridge

by Dona Francis Mar 20, 2010
Two months ago we came up with an idea that had our friends and family questioning our sanity. An idea that intrigues, confuses, and sparks wild conversations in the break room.  We figured No Impact Man had done it, as well as The Dervaes Family, Rachel Munston, and countless others.

AND SO, ON January 9, 2010 we unplugged our fridge.

According to The Consumer’s Guide to Effective Environmental Choices, refrigerators suck up an average of 1,383 kilowatt hours of energy each year.  This is a very wasteful use of energy, especially considering that many foods don’t require the level of refrigeration we’re led to believe they need.

Eggs are a classic example. Travel to most countries outside of North America and eggs are sold and stored at room temperature. Same goes for cheese. We now keep cheeses wrapped in waxed paper on the counter, and have been surprised at how much more flavorful they are when not kept cold.

Many fruits will keep for a week or more at room temperature, and vegetables will last for at least a few days if kept moist with water.

Milk however, will only keep for about 6 hours.  Seeing that the two of us manage to consume at least one gallon of milk every week, I think the footpath to the grocery store is about to get a lot more action.

European couchsurfers who come to stay with us never fail to comment on the Y2K stockpile mentality of our refrigerators. The “apartment-size” fridge (9-12 cubic feet) is the norm in Europe, compared to the 19-22 cubic foot norm in the US and Canada.

Cleaning out our fridge and moving its contents to the mudroom made me realize how much crap really was in there. Half-empty bottles of crusty sauces, soggy fruit, and hairy cheese confirmed my weakness for sales and subsequent habit of buying more than necessary. Just by downgrading to a smaller fridge could cut your energy use in half and if you’ are anything like me, probably slice a nice chunk off of your grocery bill too.

Most refrigerators are set to about 36 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 degrees Celcius), but don’ t actually need to be so cold. By cranking the temperature up to 43 degrees your food will stay cool without over-expending your already very hard working refrigerator.

We’re managing to get by just fine without a refrigerator and while I’m slowly accepting that chilled white wine won’t be waiting for me after work this summer, I love the challenge of it. It is estimated that the average US home uses just shy of 1,000 kilowatts of electricity every month, and since we’ve ditched our fridge, we have watched our monthly consumption drop from 170 kWh to 90 kWh.

The challenge of living without refrigeration excites me, and a photo essay chronicling our “ditching the fridge” adventure can be found on Wandering Dona.

Community Connection:

To learn more about everyday ways to conserve energy and save money, be sure to read about Abbie Mood’s experience with the No Impact Week Challenge. Also, check out Matador’s focus page on Green Products for environmentally conscious product ideas!

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