Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why turning off your fridge costs more energy

Greenpa and I were going back and forth a bit last weekend over the alleged merits of getting rid of your fridge. I disagree with him on a number of points, although I'm sure if you changed your eating habits and shopping habits, there is the chance of success.

But, ultimately, I have this thing about bacteria and mold - I don't like them in my food and refrigeration and freezing helps to slow down that growth. I would like to argue also that, unless someone is willing to substantially change the way they eat and live, it's possible that turning off their fridge will cost a higher total energy output.

There are three main reasons why I don't turn off my fridge and why, I think, for many Americans, it would produce a higher overall energy cost. This cost is not just what shows up on your utility bill, but the total inputs going into the system.

Now, if you don't have a newer or Energy Star rated fridge, this is a non-issue. But, if you do, it's likely to present a number of issues. For us, personally, since we get our electricity from hydro and wind, I'm less concerned about the CO2 impact than if I had a really old fridge and my electricity came from coal.

But, that said, there are other issues with turning off your fridge:

1. Cooking and food waste - Since you don't have the option of refrigerating leftovers you really have to make sure that you prepare only enough food that will feed you at that point in time. Any leftovers most likely will need to be thrown away or you risk increased contamination.

This causes a higher energy output for two reasons:

a. You can't take advantage of cooking large quantities at a time and saving it for meals later. For example, turning the oven on to bake one chicken breast for a dish is relatively the same as cooking 6 for that many more meals that get put in the fridge and eaten later in the week or put in the freezer for a meal another time. So, in this example, over the course of those many meals, you would need to turn the oven on 6 times rather than once. This uses more energy.

b. If you end up throwing out food because you made too much and can't save it, then all the energy that went into production and shipping of that food is lost. Not to mention the cost. If you can't bear to throw out the food and feel compelled to ingest the rest of it yourself, then you risk health problems associated with overeating.

Without refrigeration, you also risk throwing out a lot of other food that goes bad before you get a chance to eat it, like lettuce and other perishables that don't do well at room temperature. And, again, the energy that went into the growing and shipping of those foods is wasted as well.

2. Cost of food and packaging: Since I can't take advantage of cost savings in buying larger sizes of food, it is more expensive to me as a consumer. The example here would be only buying a pint or quart of milk each day rather than a gallon of milk to last a week. So, in general, I'm spending more on food if I can't rely on refrigeration or freezing.

Not only does buying smaller amounts end up being much more expensive, but the amount of packaging used for 4 quarts is a lot more than for a gallon. The problem with extra packaging (and in this example, processing), is that it takes more energy to produce that unit.

There's a tremendous environmental cost in the manufacturing process that includes both water and energy. One statistic I found: It takes so much less energy to manufacture one gallon of milk (versus a half gallon) that you could run your fridge for 3 days with the offset.

So, anytime I want to purchase a food item that really should be refrigerated (like milk, cheese, unsalted butter, etc.) and I have to buy it in smaller quantities, it will cost me more and the environmental impact will be higher.

3. Time and travel: Unless you live in an urban area where food shopping is available within walking distance, this increase in daily shopping will require you to, most likely, drive more. You will need to spend more time meal planning, coordinating out what you have and don't have on hand and shopping for those items. You will spend more in gas to drive to the store to pick up these items.

Now, of course, you can completely change the way you eat, walk to the store, etc. but for most people (particularly those who don't live in cold climes, which is more and more of the country these days), turning off your fridge can, ultimately, cost you more time, money and sum energy costs.


Anonymous said...

Turning off the fridge will mean no leftovers (unless you live in Siberia and the outside world is a natural freezer), which will mean eating out more often when you are tired or just do not have enough time to cook. This will waste a lot of money. Therefore, it does not sound like an idea that the average american will be able to implement in their daily lives.

Anonymous said...

Our Dear Crunchy,
on your qualifier "for many Americans", I would agree with you because many Americans are illiterate in the ways of food preservation and couldn't give a rat's rump about saving energy.

That being said, I disagree on all three points. First, (now, like two hundred years ago) mold and bacteria are kept in control with proper storage. Plenty of times I put leftover food - while it is still piping hot - into a mason jar with a tight lid, for an airtight seal, and it is fine at the next meal or the next day. (Think about how many times we pack something for lunch which then sits at room temperature six hours [or until whenever we can eat].) Then there proper "canning" methods; for example, a farmer friend fills hundred of mason jars with soups, vegetables, and tomato sauces every fall - which are stored on shelves in cabinets throughout the coming year.

Second, on the subject of milk, Non-Fat Dry Milk has been perfectly fine and needs not one bit of refrigeration. Mix with water as you need it... voila!

Third, on the subject of travel. See number one. :-) Yesterday I ate a can of chickpeas that I traveled to the store to buy {dramatic pause} two and a half years ago. And it was topped with vinagrette - made with oil, vinegar and spices which need no refrigeration. (Yummy!) Proper storage allows me to take advantage of sales, and ride out high cost periods.

Thus, the problem is Not with food preservation, the problem is with (too) many Americans being spoiled (pun intended) and uneducated in the ways of food safety/storage.

TDP said...

Phoenix Arizona has a climate that requires refridgeration of most foods I buy. Although even with refridgeration I have found that I need to reduce the amount of food that I buy so that it will not spoil before I eat it. I would like to learn about preserving by drying foods. Heat is what we have plenty of here!

jewishfarmer said...

Like Jimbolini, I think you are probably right if you are willing to turn off your fridge but make no lifestyle changes at all. But how likely is that - that someone will come to environmentalism and say "ok, my first and only step is to turn off my fridge, but I'm not going to do anything else?" That's not exactly one of the usual early steps.

Your climate doesn't have to be Siberia-like in order to keep food cool a good portion of the year - my Dad doesn't live that far from you, Crunch, and says that daytime temps have been consistently in the high 30s to low 40s - perfect bacteria controll temps, not unlike your fridge. So even if you didn't turn your fridge off all year round, you could turn it off for several months of the year.

On the "it isn't really all or nothing" front, there's also the fact that some fairly significant percentage of the population has a freezer - you could do what we do when there's no natural refrigeration - use your fridge as an icebox, rotating ice packs or use a cooler or two for a smaller number of refrigerated items. We find this results in a substantial reduction in electrical use, not to mention freon using appliances, which are bad for the planet.

Also in the "more than one way to skin a cat" department is the idea of communal fridge use - for the millions of people who live in apartments or duplexes, you could have a communal fridge - much of what we keep in one doesn't need to be refrigerated anyway.

But the other reality is that you could change your cooking and eating habits - less meat and dairy means that you can keep food overnight quite easily. A garden means that you can fix portions rather quickly that will be eaten all at once.

I agree that if you already do a lot of bulk cooking, it might be more energy intensive, and it might, say, make sense to keep a small chest freezer and just shut off the fridge and use it as an icebox. But most Americans don't do this - most Americans barely cook. More than half of all meals are eaten in restaurants, and of the ones eaten at home, most involve the ripping open of packages. My guess is people who can't walk (or use public transportation) to shopping, do cook in bulk, can't use natural refrigeration part of the year and wouldn't shift their dietary habits a bit before they considered turning off the fridge are actually a pretty small minority ;-).

BTW, I'd add that we find that we have less moldy and wasted food now that we are using a smaller fridge space or natural refrigeration - fewer places for things to go bad, and more necessary attention to our food supply.


Anonymous said...

In our current adventure we do not have a fridge. Instead we have a cold room, located on the north side of the house, which I maintain at a fairly consistent 30-40 degrees. It is working very well for us. I do this by opening and closing various doors.

In the summer things will (of course) have to be different: we have a spring house. However, some of the Amish in our area do not ave a spring house. They manage keeping foods cool by using a freezer and well insulating it on the inside. Then they use ice that they have collected through the winter and keep in an ice house. They put a chunk or two in the house every so often.

There are definitely ways to manage without a fridge and without subjecting oneself to moldy foods. :)


Lisa Zahn said...

I love the way you think, Crunchy! I have only very, very briefly entertained the idea of turning off the fridge. I decided no way, not gonna do it unless I HAVE to someday. Which I don't really foresee happening, even in this terrible economic climate!

We have so many leftovers stored in our fridge it's like a gold mine. My husband would starve if there weren't leftovers! And boy, what that would cost us...

Even people I know who live in tiny houses using only solar power have Sunfrost (a super-efficient brand) refrigerators.

Anonymous said...

Crunchy, I'm totally buying your argument. (But I do want to get my hands on a Kill-a-watt to see how much energy the fridge uses.) But yes, I'm "typical American." I prefer to shop less frequently and I like to cook enough to have leftovers (stored safely) which results in healthier eating and, as you pointed out, less energy to cook.

But I'm fascinated by the no-fridge arguments and I look forward to learning more!

Lynnet said...

I'm not prepared yet to go without refrigeration, but we replaced our 20-yr-old 29-cu-ft side-by-side with a new Vestfrost 11 cu ft. The ambient temperature in the kitchen that August dropped by 3 degrees. The electric bill went down by $20 a month.

It was a bit of a struggle learning how to live in 11 cu ft in frig + freezer. For example, I had to throw out 6 jars of mustard with 1/4" in the bottom of each. With a big frig, I had just let stuff accumulate too much.

We have the advantages of being able to cook ahead and use leftovers, but cutting way down on electricity usage and waste. So for us, now, it's a good middle ground.

Greenpa said...

THANK YOU, SHARON! And all the others on our side!

:-) You've hit almost all the points very lucidly-

And Crunchista, you great silly, all of my discussions on unplugging the fridge INCLUDE the lists of ways in which you CAN change your behavior and habits, in order to make it work.

I guess I was too permissive in my language. You not only CAN - you MUST make SOME of those changes, or of course it's going to be worse than not unplugging.

We do NOT drive any more than before; that's a given. Doesn't happen. No meat in the house tonight? Gosh; we have a meatless meal. That was hard.

So Crunch- you're willing to "wash" your hair with sodium bicarbonate- which takes longer, probably doesn't work in the long run, and saves you pennies; but you're not willing to unplug the fridge (which will cut your house electric bill by 10% if you're an average yankee! 10%!! huge!) - and just SLIGHTLY change the way you shop and cook?


Anyway. As I keep saying- I'm not going to send the Refrigerator Gestapo around to anybody's house. These things are always a matter of personal taste, and choice- and something I shy away from discussing often- ABILITY.

People think, and make habits- in quite different ways. For some, the changes necessary to live fridgeless are easy (LIKE VANESSA, YOU BACKSLIDER!). :-) For others- it would be hell on earth. That would be, uh, counterproductive.

It's just- an option. (with big, 10% direct energy savings- and more with a few behavior changes...)

Greenpa said...

For those of you who automatically respond "no way! can't live without it!" - it's REALLY worth going through Vanessa's (Green as a Thistle) experiences in complete detail.

Hher first response was yours- "he's crazy!" which she delightfully put on her blog.

But, unlike you guys; she was under compulsion to do something new every day, and was getting desperate for ideas; so she tackled it.

And, as she also put on her blog, and in her book- she found it was... NOT DIFFICULT. And she actually kind of enjoyed it. And certainly ate more fresh food.

She did indeed backslide after her year was over, but it was kind of more out of reaction than anything.

Vanessa- as you may recall; my suggestion for how to really test it out for how it fit you, after the year, was - to plug the fridge back in, for a month at least, and go ahead and relax back into your "normal" patterns. (Your list of dammed up cravings was great fun.) And then- after a month or two of relaxing from the strict requirements of your experiment- unplug the fridge; just for a WEEK. Knowing you can plug it back in; no penalties; no cops. And after the week; just check and see what you feel.

Any chance of getting you to try that? You were HAPPY- without the fridge. But boy it would be hard to sort out how that all fit together in the middle of the rest of the experiment.

Greenpa said...

Oh; AND. :-)

Full disclosure- both Sharon and I DO have- FREEZERS. Mine currently has a pig, and a deer in it. MInus some of the tasty bits.

I think if I lived in a city, I would do without the freezer, too. Feeding kids adds questions. Jimbo- where are you on the freezer question?

Farmer's Daughter said...

Funny, I was just talking to my dad about cutting ice blocks for ice boxes. He was telling us about how his father and grandfather would slaughter a cow and leave it hanging in the barn for the winter, then cut off pieces as they needed them. However, in the summer that was a problem because the ice box was just not big enough for that much.

I feel that we've changed to a much more sustainable way of eating: raising our own animals, slaughtering once a year and keeping the meat in the freezer. We're dependent on the freezer for this method, and I would not ever think of turning it off. I'd much rather have the knowledge of how my animal lived, was loved, how it was killed and how it was packaged.

I think turning off our fridge, driving to the store everyday to pick up styrofoam packaged meat that's been sitting in a freezer/cooler is a very poor alternative to what we do now.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Okay, just read Greenpa's comment that he and Sharon both have freezers. Phew! Maybe I cold do without the fridge if I still had my freezer. Not that I particularly want to, I like my fridge. But I could do it if I could keep my freezer.

Rachel said...

Not much more to add that hasn't been said by Sharon, Greenpa and Shasha.

But wanted to add my support to that crew. I'm also fridge free (over a year now) and loving it. Like Sharon and Greenpa I have a freezer for local meat and veg storage and for making ice for the icebox in the summer.

The lifestyle changes that we had to make in the switch were SO minimal. We really aren't going to the store more often, we still are able to store our leftovers, and we get the benefits of wasting less food, and a huge savings in our electricity consumption.

We really couldn't be happier. Which I know is really boring for all the people who ask what its like to go without a fridge. They want to hear about all the drama and the hassles. When I don't have any to share, they seem a bit disappointed!

I'd totally encourage anyone to try it out. Especially if you already have a freezer. You'll see it isn't nearly as much trouble as you imagine it would be.

Chris said...

I'm sad to see the knee-jerk "No way" comments here. I'm not fridge-free yet, but we are experimenting here in Portland, Oregon, with storing food outside during the colder months. I keep a cooler outside my kitchen door for extra jugs of milk that I buy before teaching my cheese making classes. I have bulk fruit stored on my north-facing front stoop, where it stays cool, dry, and under close supervision because we pass by it everyday. I am intrigued with the idea of having an icebox someday and am trying to figure out how to create natural cold storage in my home.

I do a lot of bulk food buying--except for meat and the few vegetables and fruit I freeze, the 5-lb block of cheddar I get every other month, the yogurt & cream cheese I culture myself every other week--most of that bulk food sits in my pantry for months and years. I also do a lot of big batch cooking--I have a plan for consuming leftovers the next day or I freeze them. Really, I could be keeping leftovers in my cooler. It's just a change of habit that I need to make. Really, that's what a lot of this is...not major lifestyle adjustments, though those can come over time.

What bothers me about Crunchy's post and the comments is the lack of imagination and seeming unwillingness to ask, "How can I?" instead of insisting, "No way. I can't." I realize that people have different circumstances, climates, etc., but the "Can't Do" attitude bums me out.

Anonymous said...

we had an opportunity to try going fridge free when the power was out for a week after ike. it was A LOT of work. there was extra planning before grocery shopping and cooking, stress over storing the leftovers (was there enough ice? would the chest stay cold enough to keep spoilage at bay? who was going to try the milk?) for us, keeping our fridge, and using it wisely, is the best option.

Greenpa said...

Debra - 2 things. ok, 3 things. :-)

First - no quarrel with your decision that the fridge is best for you.

Second- you weren't REALLY going fridgeless there- you were substituting an ice chest for a fridge. Yeah, that's a mess.

Third- truthfully; one week is not long enough to get a family comfortable with lots of new habits. EVERY new activity humans undertake involves some pain of adjustment, and feelings of "I can't". I suggested a 1 week trial for Vanessa- because it wouldn't be new for her; she'd already done months without a fridge; so she'd be stepping back into new habits.

ruchi said...

Hey, wait a sec!! You guys have freezers? That is SOOOO cheating!! ;)

But, if I may, I think the answer might be: *gasp* smaller fridges. Here in Europe, the fridges are WAY smaller than typical American fridges. And yet, people still manage just fine.

My current fridge is a mini-fridge and it is actually totally fine size-wise for me.

Anonymous said...

Well, you KNEW I'd have to comment on this one, Crunch! As someone who lived without a fridge for over 8 months, I can attest that I didn't spend more money or waste more food than before. It's all about strategy... in terms of cooking larger batches and having leftovers, I still did this; it just meant that I'd have to eat my dinner for lunch the next day rather than waiting another three days to eat it. If you're not dealing with meat, there really isn't much to worry about in terms of bacteria. Milk-wise, I switched to hemp, almond and soy milk, which lasted unrefrigerated for a few days, and I didn't have to buy smaller packs of it or anything. And yes, I'd definitely purchase cheese in smaller quantities, but I'd buy it from my local cheese shop where they were cutting it off a big wheel and I was keeping it in cheesecloth, so there wasn't more packaging involved. Because going without a fridge means cutting back on meat, that's a HUGE environmental savings right there. And yes, living in a city meant that I wasn't driving anywhere to get my groceries.

Now, I'm like you -- I've gone back to using my fridge and don't have much eco-guilt because it's energy-efficient and my house is powered by wind and so on. But I do think that if you're strategic about what you buy and realize that, actually, most things DON'T need refrigeration (eggs, vegetables, condiments, juice, etc), unplugging the fridge can be green and quite liberating.

It also helps if you live in Canada and have a balcony -- then you get a natural fridge outside for half the year!

Beautiful Each Day said...

We are an on-the-grid family of five. After reading what Greenpa and Sharon had to say about it we unplugged our fridge a few months ago. We do have a chest freezer full of home-raised meat and a cool-room under the house packed with lots of vegetables.

Two important notes: We have a dairy goat. I process the milk in some way every day, or give it to the chickens. Also, our daily diet changed when the weather cooled off in October. I expect it will change again when summer temperatures come back. Just as eating locally or from the garden changes one's way of eating, so does doing without the fridge. It's seasonal.

Sharlene said...

Well considering people have been fridgeless for most of history, I certainly believe it is possible. I just don't think its for me at this time.I am a woman who likes certain coveniences and refrigeration is one of them.

Beautiful Each Day said...

Hmmm... should have added:
After starting to make and eat many fermented foods I am now unafraid of leaving vegetarian leftovers out and then reheating and eating them. For meat dishes I follow Greenpa's advice about keeping it sealed and boiling it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and P.S. Thanks for the shout-out, Greenpa! I keep meaning to unplug the fridge again, I really do -- when I first plugged it back in, there was nothing in it for weeks other than hummus and a bottle of white wine. Now it's more stocked, but I know that most of what's in there doesn't really need to be in there at all... sigh. This makes me want to go back to the fridgeless ways... maybe I will :)

TDP said...

I used to have a mini-fridge a few years ago when I lived in a tiny studio apartment. It suited my purposes just fine. I actually donated it to my former employment site so the staff could use it. The things that were troublesome about that mini fridge is that it wasn't very energy efficient and the freezer section was too small. I'm sure the selection and quality of minis are much better in Europe where the demand is greater. If they are available here in the future, I may buy one when my current one fails.

I could see myself switching over to a freezer only one day.But how much electricity does that freezer use versus even a mini fridge?

Crunchy Chicken said...

Alright, all you "fridgeless" posers, I'm calling you on a tremendously HUGE cheat factor here. Freezers?

Isn't that like saying you are car-free, but then drive a motorcycle?

And, I'm not saying it can't be done. Billions of people who live on this earth and in hot climates to boot live without refrigeration.

I'm just saying that each person needs to do an analysis of how willing they are to change their eating, meal planning and shopping habits to make it work without added impact. It's easier for people who live alone who generally don't cook in large quantities to begin with.

Jimbobaby - I don't doubt that being fridgeless works for you, but I'd like to know where you live, if you live alone and whether you have any kids? That always complicates matter a tad.

And, don't get me started on how energy intensive it is to make powdered milk.

Ruchi - On the mini fridge issue, I was just reading some stats last night on mini-fridges and how they use as many kWh per year as my big-ass Energy Star fridge with freezer on the bottom. (From The Carbon Buster's Home Energy Handbook)

Greenpa said...

Crunchy - lol. No fudging ever intended; both Sharon and I have mentioned our freezers on our websites. It's not a "greener than thou!" kind of a thing; it's purely a matter of hard reality; and choice.

A SELECTED chest freezer averages 354 kWhrs/year-
A new Energy Star fridge averages 1,404 kwhs/year

multiple sources for this info on the web.

Plus habits kick in- we open our chest freezer - like once a week. It's not on the farm; but in unheated rented storage space were we store business materials- I think with our use; our chest freezer is actually pulling something like 100 kWhr/yr - having it in unheated space is huge.

Anonymous said...

"And, don't get me started on how energy intensive it is to make powdered milk."

Whole system analysis, please!

When you ship wet milk- you pay to ship -water. Millions of tons of water.

And it has to be refrigerated- every minute. And it's mostly millions of tons of water, that you're refrigerating.

And thrown out- when some spoils.

Apples and oranges, kind of.

Anonymous said...

Wow. It never remotely occurred to me to turn off my fridge. Certainly people in very remote locations lived without refrigeration until really very recently.

Like Crunchy, given my eating habits I don't see it happening for me. But it's a really interesting discussion. Lots of food for thought.

katecontinued said...

I'm of the fridgeless camp since July. But, there is nothing pure about my experience. First, I had a countertop ice maker I could turn on for under an hour and have cubes for a lunch size cooler I used occasionally. I also did some backsliding for no good reason. I decided to plug in the fridge (small restaurant model without a freezer) for a couple of months at the end of the year.

All of the experiments were just that . . . experiments. I wanted to learn how to cope or how to modify how I was living. I needed to know about my dependencies. Why else? I think that everyone should voluntarily live without to teach themselves, the family too, what is involved in fridgeless living. There is nothing at all to lose but convenience.

(Caveat - I don't have someone in my home suffering from a major illness. Crunchy Chicken can do anything she damn well pleases.)

jewishfarmer said...

Actually, Crunch, that's a pretty good analogy - car free but drive a motorcycle means that you use a much less energy intensive means of doing the same approximate thing. Add on the fact that many people in our society have cars and motorcycles - or in this case fridges and stand alone freezers, and the difference becomes more acute. But yes, it is a way of saying "I have motorized transportation, but not one as gas guzzling as a car."

I certainly have never tried to conceal my freezer - I've written about it quite explicitly every time I've discussed being fridgeless. In our case, the major issue is that we sell meat from our farm - if it were just us, I might consider moving the meat to "on the hoof" strategies, but our attempts to get customers to pick up on butchering day before meat spoiled have failed miserably ;-). Like Greenpa, we keep ours in a insulated but unheated place and our kill o watt marks us at about 121kwh - hugely less than most fridges.

Saying "it doesn't have to be all or nothing" isn't cheating, I don't think, when the annual savings comes in a big wad of coal fired electricity that isn't used, one less freon containing appliance in the world, etc...

Frankly, I think you are wildly overstating the difficulties of, say, going fridgeless in winter, and perhaps switching to a small chest freezer and icebox (you can use your existing fridge for that just fine). The lifestyle difference can be summed up as "once every day in the hot weather, I open my freezer for 30 seconds, take out some ice packs and put in others." I then carry them all the way to the fridge and put them where the old ones were. Ta da! I don't cook differently, I don't eat differently. The only real difference is that in the winter, when the food is out on my porch, I can see it better and we have less spoilage.

Annual electic savings? Close to 1,000 kwh. You can use a dead fridge if you don't have one already, thus keeping it out of the landfill and from leaking out that freon. Saves the embodied energy of manufacturing and transporting a new fridge too - I can use this one forever.

We've lived without a fridge or a freezer. We've shared a freezer in the past with our neighbors, and if we ever figure out the meat sales thing, we'll probably go back to doing that, or go back to neither. For now I'm reasonably content that selling our neighbors meat instead of having them get it from tyson is enough of a positive impact to justify the fridge, but that might change.

I guess what bothers me here is the whole "anything but all or nothing is a cheat" idea - I don't think those 1000 watts of power that we're not using are "a cheat" - I think it is fairly elegant compromise, and there are other elegant compromises. The all or nothing model that you seem to be presenting to me seems to discourage people from doing anything about the huge energy impact of home refrigeration.


Anonymous said...

We were given a freezer as a wedding present last year, and have found it saves us a great deal of money. We can buy bulk quantities of meat when it is on sale - previously we could only store enough for a few days meals. It is also used for freezing a lot of excess garden produce, and fruit, which will be eaten through winter. And in terms of vegetarian meals, I often don't have time to cook up a batch of beans or brown rice on a week night, and tinned beans are quite expensive here, so I cook a large amount on the weekend and freeze them. Same with soup. Our fridge, on the other hand is mostly used for storage of dairy produce, and stuff we don't want the ants getting into ;)

Spot-On said...

I think there are lots of issues with this depending on the lifestyle you're leading. Whilst we'd all love to be living off the land, for those with jobs in the city that's not possible unless your commuting and in which case that brings up the vehicle emissions etc. Not really a green option. I also image the transition would be easier if one of the family members was at home full time rather than both adults working full time outside the home like lots of average families. The fact is that years BF (before fridges) one of the family members stayed at home so the lifestyle was easier timewise.

What works for one doesn't work for everyone. If you've gone fridge free, good for you, but just because YOU make it work doesn't mean everyone can.
Most of you without a fridge have a freezer well sorry but IMO it's cheating ;) If I had a choice (and that's what we're discussing here CHOICE) I'd go without the freezer. We're vegetarian, don't eat any meat, so what good is a freezer other than to preserve veggies which could be done via canning.

For those with a freezer can I ask this: If the fridgeless lifestyle is so good and easy why not just get rid of the freezer too? The majority of you are storing meat which is a HUGE contributor to the global warming. If canning etc can be done for foods why not meats? And if preservation is the reason then shouldn't you be eating 'in season' anyway?

Just food for thought!

Char said...

I seriously can't imagine living without my fridge, and I live 3 blocks from my grocery store...
I imagine it would take a TON of time to live fridgeless, time which I do not have.
Very admirable though.

kit said...

I've gone back and forth on this one as well. Currently, our fridge is our single largest household energy user. It's the cheap freezer-on-top thing that came with the condo, and I've been tempted to replace it with a small chest freezer with a thermostat so that it can be a fridge instead.

Like Ms. Hickman noted, most people have more use for a fridge than a freezer. We'd have to eat some stuff up to get rid of the freezer but I think that we'd be better off without the ability to stockpile and then forget about things that get freezer burn.

I look at the energy from having our fridge as a tradeoff against not having A/C and not having to go to the corner store for ice in the summer. Our energy uses overall are much lower for having a small condo in the city, but we also don't have the capability to do a cold room or outside food storage. If we bought canned food we'd also be able to avoid using one, but I'm prissy and really prefer fresh veggies and greens. If we were committed to local food in the summer and fall, we'd have a once-a-week farmers' market at which to get it, and it would be really hard to choose food that would make it a whole week in 85+ temperatures inside the house.

So yes, I *could* get rid of the fridge. It would be easier if I made more energy-wasteful decisions overall, like moving out of the city so I could have a garden and cold room. I could buy canned foods and buy bulk-bin salad every day (which gets dumped into the bulk bins from plastic tubs). Do I want to? Heck no! When this fridge dies, we'll replace it with a fridge-temperature small chest freezer, but until then I'm not going to panic over it.

QuarantinedKiddos said...

I have a 5 yo, 3 yo, and 19 mo. I think it's unrealistic to suggest that I can open up a can of chick peas, hand it to them, and call it a delicious dinner. I have attempted to find local sources for meat/dairy/produce in my area (north of Boston) and found it so time consuming that it didn't make monetary nor personal sense for me to continue.

We grow a vegetable garden in season, but we don't have enough space to grow enough for every meal, and certainly not enough to make it through the winter.

My kids thrive on fresh fruit, instead of pre-packaged food-like snacks. I need to buy the fruits in bulk and keep most of them in my fridge for consumption throughout the week. I can hear some of you who want to argue that a can of mushy jarred fruit is going to be a viable option, I've no doubt some kids grow up on that stuff. But I did not, and my kids have not, and the year long torture it would be to wean them off fresh and transfer them over to canned would be a nightmare that does not make it worthwhile to me.

I also have no intention of taking my children's calcium sources away from them. Without milk and cheese I would be looking at some serious health risks. And don't tell me you've got your 3 year olds eating broccoli and kale. Mine would literally rather starve.

Perhaps this is an argument for people with no kids. All I know is, it would never ever fly in this house. I'd rather make 100 other eco-friendly changes in our lifestyle (and have) then unplug my fridge.

Robj98168 said...

I agree with you totally Crunchy- And I am keeping my frigidaire Sorry Greenpa! I dont have the ability or the space to build a root cellar (I am on a septic system and dont have a basement) I do how ever in the cool months of winter have a little locker I keep on the porch- somehting I learned from my mom- It keeps a lot of my veggies and such cool, stores beverages- and I use my freezer to preserve food. I am willing to do a lot to reduce my energy comsumption but giving up the frigidaire is not on that list

Maeve said...

Given that we don't have the means to go whack blocks of ice out of frozen ponds, and keep them in sawdust in an ice-house; I'm not interested in giving up my deep freezer and my fridge.

We're just not at that point yet, and there are many other areas of "Greening" that I'm still working on, or finding the gumption to try.

Anonymous said...

I went for quite a while with a tiny fridge and no freezer. Our American fridges are definitely bigger and less efficient than they need to be.

But I want to ask Greenpa and Sharon: is there really much difference in money and energy savings between having a freezer and having a fridge? I'm unclear about that distinction. I don't have a freezer (and don't need one because we eat seasonally & locally) but I do have a fridge... what is the difference?

Anonymous said...

Really? Just read your response, Greenpa - really, it's 1,000 kWh difference between freezer and fridge? So hard to believe, when it has to keep things so much colder... The technology needs some working on!!

Still, the European-style fridges are much smaller... have you compared those to your fridge?

Crunchy, I wish I could believe as you do that our WA power is clean, but there are major environmental and cultural repercussions for having those hydro dams. I'm quite concerned - they're not quite as bad as coal, but not too far behind in my book. I just don't think there is a perfect power source - so we should do our best to reduce no matter where we are. I'm probably nitpicking your words, but a lot of controversy surrounds our power.

Crunchy Chicken said...

My big-ass GE Profile 22.2 cu ft Energy Star fridge uses an annual 493 kWh/year. Which is similar to most mini-fridges (from what I read last night - I can't find the stats online).

Our 14.8 cu ft Energy Star chest freezer uses 357 kWh/year.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Oh, by the way, if you don't have an *Energy Star* chest freezer, the kWh are much higher... it really depends on what you own. Same deal with the fridge, of course.

So, it's feasible that my fridge uses less kWh per year than Greenpa's freezer since mine is most likely newer and Energy Star rated...

TDP said...

A guy I worked with had a lovely huge chest freezer in his garage. He came home one day to realize that the freezer had stopped working - and subsequently lost nearly $1000 worth of food he had stored in there. He did go out and buy another freezer, but it took awhile to get that freezer filled up again.

That is my biggest fear with freezers - to invest so much money into the contents and then whammo, a power failure or appliance failure and all your food is spoiled. Not asking anyone for a solution, just expressing a fear.

Anonymous said...

Ah. Greenpa has a freezer. It might help to mention that when making the "you don't need a fridge" argument. ;)

Personally, I loathe shopping, so I'm not willing to give up a refrigerator if it means having to go to the store more often.

I do like Sharon's system, though. I think I will do something like that when I finally settle down.

Riana Lagarde said...

not having a fridge was one of the best things we ever did (last July). nothing goes to waste now, it is cooked up into the next meal. our back room is frosty during the winter and that is our pantry. really the only things that have to be cold is: milk, butter, yogurt, cheese and mayo (homemade with whey so it lasts even longer) and some of those can take more heat. remember those butter dishes with the lids so you always had soft butter? cheese houses to ripen cheese?

for our milk, btw we drink raw milk. its frozen, yes, we have a deep freezer, its super energy efficient and costs 6 dollars a month to run. we take out a frozen liter each day and it sits next to the yogurt, butter, milk and if there are any leftovers in a cooler and that is enough to keep them all cool. even when it was 100 degrees out in august. the same goes for defrosting meat.

plus, anything with more than 50 percent sugar and 15 percent vinegar do not need to be refrigerated. we have a lot of dried pantry items, canned veggies and fruit from this summer and meat from organic farms (we buy once a year). and we have not grocery shopped since Sept 1, 2008. so yes, it can be done and it's actually quite easy in all climates.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a freezer - so I'm not cheating! :-P nyaaa, nyaaa, nyaa! :-)

I live in New York, in the mid-Hudson Valley where it is like 15 degrees (Monday morning) and gets up into the 80s/90s in the summer. And, yes, I live alone... :-( - which is probably why I can get away with busting open a can of chick peas for a meal (though I did have rice with them one day last week, when I topped them with canned mushroom gravy).

The only thing I miss is ice on a hot summer day. A trip to the store solves that one - for a few uber-delightful hours! :-D

You'll probably say I'm cheating for putting things in an unheated room. But, actually, the room is unheated because it doesn't need to be, and there's nothing in there which can't sit on the countertop: a few boxes of cereal, a few 10lb sacks of potatoes, 1-1/2 heads of cabbage, eggs, --- you get the picture. Although I better eat that half jar of baby corn before I violate the trash-reduction challenge. :-O

jewishfarmer said...

I have children, if it is helpful. And yes, the do eat broccoli and kale, even the 3 year old, but they also drink milk and eat fresh fruit. The fruit stays cold on my porch - we buy apples by the bushel in the fall when they are fresh and they taste so much better than anything we can get from the supermarket.

As for meat - we raise pastured, sustainable meat on land not suitable for tillage - it is too steep and wet for raising grains or vegetables. We raise them with minimal grain use - so no, our meat production isn't a massive contributor to global warming, but an antidote to commercial meat production for those who don't want to be vegetarians. In fact, meat production on a small, sustainable scale allows us to make use of land that would otherwise lie fallow - requiring someone else to grow food on land that could be wild.

As for cheating, for those who don't know about it, we participate in the Riot for Austerity, which gets us down by 90% over the average American's energy use. So we're allowed a certain amount of electrical use per person - less than 150 watts per month, per person. We use it primarily on our computers, and on our freezer - and we choose how we use our fair share. I don't think there is a "cheat" factor here - I wouldn't have any trouble with someone saying "a fridge is what I choose to use my energy on" - except that it simply isn't possible to achieve a 90% reduction with a conventional American fridge, unless you are willing to sit in the dark - they simply consume too much energy. What you can do is either choose a chest freezer (which in our case gives us both refrigeration and freezing) or you can get a thermostat and adapt a chest freezer to be a fridge, which uses even less energy.

I really don't get the whole "it is the same thing." No, it isn't - a comparable sized, comparably dated chest freezer and fridge have a difference of 800-1,000 kwh of electrical usage a year. That's a huge difference - and given that every household has a fridge, it is enough to shut several dozen coal plants. I get that some people don't want to try anything different, and that this won't work for every person - but realistically, the fridge isn't just a personal choice - it is a major contributor to global warming. It is easy to shift over to cloth bags and to cut back your shampooing - the problem is that those things make very small differences in a very big crisis. The fridge is one of the big issues, and one that realistically, if we ever hope to arrest global warming, we're going to have to come to some solution on.


Carmen said...

I don't know, 3 kids - two working parents. I'm using up all my extra time cooking from scratch and tending to my small garden. I'm with Crunchy on this one. It's not a lifestyle change I'd be willing to make. I wouldn't trust myself a lot to keep my children from getting sick.

Chris said...

For those interested in knowing more about why eating meat from animals raised on pasture can actually reduce global warming, read this post at .

I don't count myself as a doomer. I see things changing in ways that will require the vast majority of Americans to change their consumptive ways--I count myself among them. As Sharon has been advocating for some time, NOW is the time to learn some new habits, to gradually acclimate ourselves to a lower energy lifestyle. To just say, "I can't," is to give up without even trying. I haven't gone fridge-free, but I can imagine within a year or two, with some continued changes to how my family eats, prepares, and consumes food, we can give up on fridge. Honestly, I'm a little excited about the prospect, as I have found during my own journey toward a simpler, more sustainable life, that I've become happier and more connected with my family, neighborhood, and the land as I have cut the ties that bind me to the industrial economy. It seems like every step, every sacrifice, has its own reward.

Anonymous said...

I don't see myself going fridgeless but that has much more to do with my husband than anything else. I am not perfect but I do the best I can. My husband on the other hand has absolutely no desire to be environmental. He will recycle his soda cans and bottles because it is easy. The recycling bin is next to the garbage can. I am often picking cardboard out of the garbage and he rolls his eyes when he sees it. If he shops... he comes home with a plastic bag(s).

Nothing will be done in our house that inconveniences him and I am positive going fridgeless will be considered a pain to him.

But I do enjoy all these conversations about what you can do and I have been trying different things that can be done personally. For example, I have switched to a shampoo bar, natural deodorant, use reusable bags for shopping and produce, tried lotion bars and now just coconut oil from a jar (I think I might be allergic to this). I have switched things over to less plastic items such as frozen concentrate instead of large plastic juice bottles and so on and so forth. Maybe it is just a little bit according to Sharon but everyone doing their little bit is better than nobody doing anything.

kit said...

Jewishfarmer- congrats on doing the riot! I just wanted to note that the 'rules' for it allow 90 KWH per household per month, not per person. I've been having a rough time on figuring out how to fit my usage into this, too, given that we run a business from home and don't have the convenience of saying our work power usage isn't our problem.

Still, for the time being my fridge is staying on. I'm not ready to buy a bigger place so I can have a cold room I can dedicate to food. I'm not willing to move to the sticks where I'm sure that unless we're total homesteaders that every other bit of energy usage would go up, given the distances and isolation involved.

Willa said...

I have a refrigerator and 2 freezers- one full of local, pastured meat, and one full of local fruits and vegetables I froze during the season so we can eat them during the year. Our refrigerator holds dairy ingredients -I won't do NFD milk because I can't find any that is produced from "happy" cows eating grass. I also have the grain ingredients for cooking that I don't want infested with miller moths. I guess during the winter those don't need to be refrigerated. I would say 80% of what we eat is local and sustainable and I am unwilling to waste any of it. I cook in bulk, we eat leftovers, blah blah blah.

That being said, I know I am a hoarder, and my refrigerator should be cleaned out. Perhaps I should commit to turning it off when it is cold enough here to use environmental factors. The thing is, though, that I think about what I am doing, and make the changes I can make at that point.

Anonymous said...

Sharon, we have a fridge but have been able to reduce 90% as part of the Riot... This makes me wonder if the stats on fridge electric use are not right? I'm thinking ours may be more in the realm of Crunchy's.

Jamie D. said...

Time and expense is why I will never give up my fridge (or deep freeze). Hubby and I both work, and while we don't have kids, I still spend an hour after work every night cooking from scratch. I don't want to add extra shopping trips to that for perishables, nor do I want to worry about freezing leftovers for 1 day, then having to thaw for lunch the next day (assuming I'd keep the freezer). I only get an hour for lunch - reheating from the fridge takes less time/energy than thawing/reheating food (we go home for lunch, don't take it to work because the dogs need a break mid-day too).

Sealing things in canning jars without actually canning them is *not* safe - it may work 99% of the time, but the 1% it doesn't, someone could die. This actually happened to friends of my husband's family - with mushrooms, no less (no meat involved - the whole family died). To actually properly can leftovers for shelf storage would be far more time and effort (not to mention more energy for the stove) than I'm willing to give. I'll save my canning time for preserving garden veggies in the fall.

Yes, we could store stuff outside here in the winter, but the weather isn't consistently cold enough for me to be comfortable with that. My in-laws set stuff outside all the time, and I've eaten many a meal with questionable items in it from outdoor storage (and felt not great afterward).

We shop in bulk, and the freezer and fridge allow us to use less plastic buying larger quantities than we would otherwise. It's also far less expensive. If I didn't pay for the energy costs of my fridge, that money would still be paid in buying more expensive food. And then there's the dog food I make from scratch - raw meat and veggies ground together. I do freeze that, but some of the items that go into it need to be refrigerated until I can make large batches at once. *Much* easier to make large batches than small ones throughout the week! Not to mention certain supplements for their food that need to be refrigerated that I just can't buy in any smaller bottles (they're small already, but I just need a little each time).

In my opinion, modern technology (including food storage) isn't necessarily "evil". These appliances been developed to make life easier & to prevent illnesses that were much more common when people didn't have refrigeration. I just don't think that's such a bad thing. I think finding a better way to power these advances should be top priority, not necessarily tossing them aside. Sure many people live without refrigeration because they *have* to - but I bet most of them wouldn't turn it down if they could get it.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm confused and new to the whole no-fridge lifestyle/argument.

According to the manufacturer, my fridge/freezer uses 580 kwh per year. And it suits my needs better than having a freezer without fridge. (I don't have a separate freezer.)

How is having a freezer (and saving roughly 200 kwh/year or 16 kwh/month) really that much better than using a fridge?

Are you guys arguing that the actual fridge energy use is bad or the "vices" enabled by the fridge, such as store-bought milk, are bad in terms of energy consumption/environmental impact?

Greenpa said...

Crunchy, why in the world would you assume I would use an old inefficient freezer??

Really runs counter to all my philosophy. Au contraire; I invested in the state of the art:

That's my freezer. Small; utterly efficient. And- opened once a week. And about 2x as expensive as a less efficient "Energy Star" machine. There are no free lunches here- you pay either for an efficient machine; or pay higher electric bills.

Melinda; those spec sheets give good data on fridge/freezer power consumption- under a variety of conditions.

A big source of disagreement in the conversation here comes from person A speaking about generalities; and person B responding with a specific instance. Not the same thing, folks!!

Greenpa said...

As to why neither Sharon nor I make a big deal out of owning a freezer- when we're talking about how to live without a fridge-

Besides the fact they're both cold, they're totally different tools.

It would be like "why aren't you talking about your band saw??" in the middle of a discussion on chain saws.

Justin Fay said...

I just celebrated my one year anniversary of fridgelessness on the 20th! (Disclosure: single, mostly vegetarian, shops only once a week, no freezer)

Tip #1: When you cook food, it's sterilized. Move it immediately to a clean container and it easily lasts a couple days, longer if it's meatless.

Tip #2: Many things don't need refrigeration. Condiments, jelly, eggs (last me three weeks in the summer), most whole vegetables, fruit, etc. Half used vegetables don't last long, but if you're feeding more than one person chances are you can use the whole thing at once. Otherwise, make sure to use it the next day.

Tip #3: When I do buy refrigerated meat, I cook it that night. Doesn't work if you eat refrigerated meat every day, unless you want to shop every day. (But also consider canned chicken, tuna, etc.)

Tip #4: Dried milk (although I hear it doesn't taste good straight, but I only use it in recipes anyway). Sure it takes more energy to evaporate it, but it then weighs much less, uses much less packaging, and doesn't need to be refrigerated every step of the way. It's at least break even energy-wise.

To be fair, I used a cooler and bought ice every week all summer as I changed by habits and reduced what I was refrigerating. All I refrigerate now (outside in the cold) is half used vegetables, open jars of spaghetti sauce (goes bad really easily), and cheese. Hopefully by this summer I'll have figured out something to do about these holdouts.

Anonymous said...

You will get my 12.7 cf energy star frig from me when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. For a family of four, that's plenty of cooling space. In the summer, our meals mostly come straight from the garden and we cook only what we plan to eat for that meal; In the winter we use our porch for additional cold storage. Nothing spoils, nothing is wasted.

Jen said...

Don't have much to add except that there's no way I'll go without a fridge. All those folks saying we could do without it in the winter at least didn't walk out into 80 degree sunshine today like we did in FL.

amanda said...

Back when TheBoy and I moved into our apartment, we had to buy a new fridge simply because we didn't have one and had never even considered going fridge-free.
Of course, it took two weeks for the back-ordered appliance to make it to our home and, for those two weeks, we lived without freon. Our cooler couldn't protect even ice from the L.A. August heat, so we just ate vegan and fresh for those weeks. Remarkably, we did so without really suffering any hardship (other than cheddar... I would've traded my fingers for cheddar that week). Worthwhile experience!

jewishfarmer said...

Thanks for the correction on the riot electric figures - I wrote them, actually, so I should remember offhand what the number is, but didn't bother to link over and look it up. And I did mean to write "per household."


Anonymous said...

I'm not ready to go frig-less yet, but I could foresee it happening. My frig is who knows how old (it came with the house). It's irreplaceable with the average frig because it's built into the wall, with storage around it. To find a frig that would be small enough to fit into that space would probably cost a lot more than the average frig. At that point in time, I couldn't even purchase the average frig.

I do live in an icebox of sorts; it's been below zero five of the last six weeks, so I could see taking advantage of all this cold.

In my wanderings around the web, I did find reference to a Zeer pot, which is quite interesting:

Anonymous said...

Greenpa, I think so many of us associate fridges and freezers so closely because most of us are so used to the fridge/freezer units. Also, almost everything you can store in the fridge (most importantly, leftovers/bulk cooking, meat, cheese, butter, and produce), you can store in the freezer. Having a freezer would make a big difference (at least to me) when going fridgeless. I wouldn't say that they are totally different tools.

Anonymous said...

OK, so you're not ready to ditch your fridge entirely. Have you considered a chest fridge? Approx 36kwh per year!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpa - Sorry for the assumption on your state of the art equipment. I was using an incorrect equation:

Old geezer = old freezer :)

"A big source of disagreement in the conversation here comes from person A speaking about generalities; and person B responding with a specific instance. Not the same thing, folks!!"

I'm a little perturbed that you assume that I'm the one talking specifics when you are just as guilty. I think I represent far more people, generally speaking, than your setup. So, I may use myself as an example in the argument, but my circumstances are far more representative of the general population, in spite of what you think.

And furthermore, I do not stand in front of an open fridge for minutes at a time, multiple times during the day. I would have to yell at myself for doing that. My kids never open the fridge. Hubby is another story.

Anonymous said...

OK, I live in a very hot place, and if I preserved everything in glass, I would need no fridge. Here I refrigerate everything else including pasta and rice because I have to. However, for those of you who need the refrigerator, some of the commenters did point out the BIG IMPORTANT MESSAGE OF THIS DONNYBROOK and that is get a chest refrigerator or a chest freezer and save bigtime on the KWatts. Chest means horizontal, the door swings up, the cold stays in. No doorway type door so that when you open the door, all the cold spills out. That would be the best short term massive power saver for the country. Vertical cooling units should be outlawed. Greenpa, I am putting you in charge of this, call the vertical police! And also, Greenpa, that freezer you have is the Rolls Royce of freezers. DC even! How are you powering that dream appliance? Oh I am just so damn jealous.

Anonymous said...

On the list of all the things I'd be willing to give up to "save the planet" the two at the bottom are toilet paper and my refrigerator.

However, I may ultimately not have a choice in the matter. So, in the interest of not dying of food poisoning if I can no longer afford (or obtain) electricity, I'm VERY happy to make note of how others live without refrigeration and I have serious plans to test said methods, very soon.

To stick one's fingers in one's ears and chant "la la la" when people start talking about giving up their refrigerators may be a TAD shortsighted.

I'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I just want to note, for those in cold climates, you can have a *very* small cold room.

My kitchen cabinets are against an uninsulated North wall. I'm in Minneapolis. We have at least 4 months of the year (probably more like 6, I haven't checked) when our cupboards are colder than the fridge. We had to insulate the bottom cupboards because they were causing a cold breeze across the floor.

If you own your house, you could insulate the house-facing parts of a cupboard and pull the insulation out of the wall behind it, and have a very, very cold cupboard, with no other changes to your kitchen.

Anonymous said...

I don't think my husband would ever allow me to do that. That said, I think I would certainly be willing to give it a try when we move to Egypt, where we can get our food fresh from the market DAILY and they don't have "bulk" stores. I think it's reasonable to assume that it could work better there. But in the meantime, I will be doing the research on what it's like to live fridge-less> but not without a deep freezer if I can avoid it.
This whole discussion has been interesting. I have a fridge and deep freezer right now, though the freezer is almost empty, and probably needs to be shut off. I think that I need to work on my food-wasting issues before I even think of starting to go no-fridge.

Unknown said...

I would disagree and say it is totally possible to turn off the fridge, but yes it might mean that you don't get to have fresh milk every day. Even easier if you keep a freezer turned on.

Most (vegetarian) foods are just fine if they are stored outside the fridge in a closed container for a day or two. For things that won't, drying, canning, and eating seasonally available foods are good options, even if you live in an urab environment (where it would be even easier IMO).

As for time- you can still buy most dry goods in bulk, just make them up as needed.

Take it with a grain of salt, since I still have my fridge turned on (don't wnt to ruin it by leavign it unplugged, and my cat DOES eat some raw food that requires a fridge). But I would seriously consider having no or only a tiny fridge if I lived in a place I owned- very very little in my fridge NEEDS to be there.

Anonymous said...

How about turning a chest freezer into a fridge by modifying the thermostat. The cold air stays in when you open it, the freezer is better insulated so it uses 1% of the energy of a regular fridge. It just stack differently. People are doing this:
I've now done it. Works a treat!

My Edible Yard said...

And what about solar refrigerators and freezers? They are out there you know and then one isn't using electricity. It seems to me it's the best of both worlds. There are solar chest freezers and refrigerators. There is even a solar refrigerator that looks just like an electric refrigerator.

Just makes no sense for me to give up refrigeration as it saves me so much energy use in the end. Not to mention being a major food preserver.

To each his/her own, though.

Anonymous said...

An advanced technological society will always require electricity. But the problem is on an institutional level. The problem isn't the electricity--it's the source. It's nice that people are committed to reducing their environmental footprint, but imaging how much things would change if that energy was devoted to social and political change.

Anonymous said...

There are also gas refrigerator/freezers available that use kerosene or Natural gas available from Good for going off the grid, and they operate silently.

Anonymous said...

I moved onto a boat, but I recommend that anyone trying to lessen their carbon footprint - or electricity bill - unplug their fridge. For two months.
Most people don't really use their fridge. They store ten-year-old condiments that didn't need refrigeration. They have rotting vegetables. They have fattening prepackaged food. They have assorted stuff that doesn't add up to a meal.
When you live out of an icebox, you think about what you really want in there. You finish what you have, instead of tacos one night and Chinese the next. You become more efficient.
And then, when you do have access to a fridge, you look forward to cooking seventeen servings of dinner for yourself and freezing it. Or keeping dough in the fridge for a week and baking a little bit each night. Or cleaning your plate and dumping those leftover bones into a "soup bowl" for the future.
By the way, most food only has to be below 40 degrees - hardly Siberian. For most of the year, you can have a cold beer just by putting it out on the porch.
It's good to just REMEMBER the silliness of trying to cool down a box inside your house down to 40 degrees in the winter, while another appliance tries to warm your house up to 65. And it's good to realize this during an ice storm - when I heard reporters wailing that the worst part of losing power was that "all the food will spoil!"

sarah gilbert , cafemama said...

fascinating conversation. I'm surprised no one has mentioned the fact that raw milk can be stored outside of a fridge for several days without spoiling; even in the summer, we left raw milk unrefrigerated on the counter for a day or more without souring. and when it *does* sour, it's simply a different taste; the live cultures ferment it into a new sort of beverage.

If we ever go without a fridge (something we've considered, even with a family of five and three of them young children), we will definitely replace most of our refrigeration with fermentation. our house was built in 1912 and still has an icebox built into the kitchen; it's likely we'd repurpose that.

In replacement of canning and fresh fruits, dried fruit is a sensible alternative and my children love raisins, dried cranberries and dried cherries and can subsist quite happily without a refrigerator for these things. as for lettuce, we only eat it in season so spoilage is never an issue.

the main struggle i'd have with no fridge would be homemade jam; i don't use sugar to make jam (honey instead) so it can only "live" for a few days once I've opened it. I guess I'd have to switch to smaller jam jars, or just eat a lot at once, which isn't exactly an enormous problem :)

Anonymous said...

I know it's several months after this great conversation, but I just unplugged my fridge 15 minutes ago after much deliberation for months, and reading Thistle's and Greenpa's sites/posts about no refrigeration. I backpacked for 6 months some years ago and did just fine without refrigerated foods. It seemed like a silly luxury when I was back in society. I'm trying to sell my fridge, so the interim time will by my experiment. I've adjusted to not owning a car (2 yrs now) so I think I can adjust to this. I welcome it! Full disclosure - single, no kids, city dweller. Should be easy. I love the challenge of shifting my comfort zone!
Also, other than manufacture's info, is there a true way to measure energy output of a fridge? Electric bill shows total usage.

tconway53 said...

Going to leave Canada to go south for the winter in two months. I will slowly empty my fridge, clean it, leave the doors open and unplug it before I leave. I'll see when I get back whether I will plug it back in when I come back in April!

tconway53 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Damian Chicken Farm said...

Thank you for sharing this one. This is a good tip for me. I have been using 2 fridge for my chicken meat and eggs. Thanks again.

Marie said...

My three year old absolutely loves broccoli.

Add me to the list of "almost fridge-free". If I didn't have it, very little would change. I store a little milk in it (when we have land and our goat, I won't need that), sometimes a bit of leftovers, and a bunch of condiments that don't need to be there.

I can my food at home. I put up meat in pint jars, so there's very little waste. Around here, for half of the year it's either canned/frozen or "fresh" from thousands of miles away.

I've been looking into other food preservation methods, too, like fermented foods.

Anna M said...

Good post! Now... a different topic. What about no range? I don't use mine. Few pots and pans to buy/wash. We use the microwave for a few things, electric skillet, electric wok and countertop toaster oven. I did the killowatt thing and we're ahead in electricity usage by doing this because the stove takes longer to cook than these single use items. Also the cost of a range is usually $1K plus and those four small appliances are less than $300.

This won't work for large families but there are only two of us and it works well.

e4 said...

Here's a silly question: If I freeze water in the chest freezer, and then put it in the fridge (as Sharon describes), but DON'T unplug it, does that get me the best of both worlds? A fridge that almost never runs, but has a failsafe?