I don’t need to tell you why climate change is very, very bad. You’ve heard the litany dozens of times (melting ice caps, rising sea levels, more unpredictable and stronger storms, water shortages). But what can you do?
First, it’s important that our government adopt a saner climate change policy. Fortunately, early indications are that this will happen, with a new president willing to set climate policy according to the scientific data rather than political ideology. Ideally, the government will create some sort of cap-and-dividend system, similar to what has been proposed and advocated by Peter Barnes (Capitalism 3.0, Climate Solutions: A Citizen’s Guide).
Well, that’s all well and good, but what can you do, you—an individual, not a government—in your daily life to cut carbon and make the world a little bit safer?
Plenty. Private homes, added together, are a huge contributor to CO2 in the atmosphere, and the little steps you take to cut your emissions can have a big impact. Let’s start with the fridge.
What do your refrigerator and freezer have to do with climate change?
Electricity used for refrigeration and air conditioning units comes from power plants, most of which burn coal, gas, or oil to produce it, emitting large quantities of CO2 in the process.
Less electricity used for refrigeration = less CO2
Refrigerators and freezers are never turned off—although they may not appear to use much energy, in an average home they can be responsible for up to 1/3 of the total electricity bill.
What can you do about it?
- Wait until hot food has cooled down before putting it into the refrigerator.
- Keep refrigerators and freezers well away from heat sources such as stoves, dishwashers, and washing machines. If possible, put refrigerators and freezers out of direct sunlight, as your appliance will use more energy trying to keep cool in the sun.
- Try to keep your refrigerator and freezer full; they will use less electricity. Keep bottles filled with tap water on hand to take up the empty spaces; fill any empty spaces in your freezer with scrunched-up paper or bubble wrap to stop warm air circulating when it is opened.
- Defrost food by putting it in the refrigerator the night before you want to use it. This will cool the refrigerator down and reduce its power consumption.
- Keep the metal grids (condenser coils) at the back of refrigerators and freezers clean and dustfree, and not jammed up against the wall; this allows the air to circulate more easily around them, and makes them more efficient. If you have a fitted kitchen with a built-in refrigerator or freezer, make sure there is ample ventilation to allow for air circulation around the condenser coils.