Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Pressure for Eco Extremism

While I consider myself an environmentalist, I consider myself part of a new wave of eco conscious -- I'm more practical about how I save the planet. But there are hard-core treehuggers like the folks listed in this February 4th New York Times article who got rid of their refrigerator in the name of eco -- now they're sort of "camping" everyday. Should you feel pressured if you're in the non-camping crowd?


And I don't.

But, that doesn't mean you shouldn't look for ways to reduce energy usage and wasteful consumption.

In the case of the refrigerator, if you throw yours out you're running to the store more often, having to buy or make your own ice (with a freezer), running the food safety risk of not cooling your food sufficiently, a limited use of leftovers, having to babysit your cooler 24/7, and in the end really not saving energy. Matter of fact, with all those extra trips to the store, you're probably using more energy while (says the NY Times article) "refrigerators do not use all that much energy. Marty O’Gorman, the vice president of Frigidaire, said an 18-cubic-foot Energy Star-rated Frigidaire refrigerator uses about 380 kilowatt-hours a year — less than a standard clothes dryer — and costs a homeowner $40, or about 11 cents a day." And downsizing to the "smallest minifridge would result in only about $6 in energy savings over a year." You could argue that lack of a fridge reduced the consumption of raw materials (metal, plastic, etc.), but that perceived advantage is probably also overshadowed by the energy required for more runs to the grocery store.

So, if you want to dump the fridge, fine. But if you don't, then choose an Energy Star appliance, recycle old appliances, keep the refrigerator out of the garage so that it uses less energy, and don't leave the refrigerator door open longer than needed.

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