Sunday, April 13, 2008

The 'Fridge

Early in the semester, we learned that residential consumption of electricity accounts for about a third of all the electricity used in America, and that 14% of that residential use comes from refrigeration. (Makes you think twice about that big, white box, doesn’t it?)

I periodically check this blog about the state of food waste in America and abroad, and one man’s quest to stop it.

Last month, the blogger, Jonathan Bloom, talked about the increase in size of our refrigerator volume from 17.5 to 22.5 cubic feet. You’d automatically think this means more energy use, but “refrigerators’ energy efficiency has increased by 74 percent. The average 1974 ‘fridge used 1825 kwh/year, compared to 476 kwh in 2003,” so even with the increase in size, overall energy use has gone down.

Though energy efficiency has gone up, he brought up another point- the amount of food we’re shoving into our new, larger refrigerators. He, and those who commented on his post, believe we operate under the “Full Cupboard Effect,” where we feel compelled to have a completely full ‘fridge. I’m guilty of this, too, and a lot of the time food goes to waste. I forget something is pushed back there in the corner (until it’s expired…and then it’s too late) and I don’t make full use of the food I do have (because I overbuy or am guilty of some impulse buys...pomelo, anyone? ).

With all the news about rising food prices and the inability of many of the world’s poor to pay for basic staples, what are we really showing by the products we use and lifestyle they reflect? Could a wiser choice in refrigeration help combat both energy and food waste? Would the market reflect that, and start offering better choices? Just something to chew on...

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