Plenty of shoppers consider the environment when shopping for groceries, opting for products grown without pesticides or patronizing farmers markets, but a lot of people don’t consider their environmental impact after they get those groceries home and into the refrigerator.
Fridges offer great opportunities for people to reduce their usage of energy, water, and toxic chemicals.
Here are a few easy ways to make the fridge a little more eco-friendly.
Clean the coils
Grab a skinny brush and gently scrub the coils under or behind your fridge. The coils help cool the fridge by releasing heat, which is difficult when they’re covered in a layer of dirt and dust. Clean coils help the fridge work more efficiently, reducing energy for an appliance that uses immense amounts.
Check for leaks
A leak in the door seam can release cold air from the fridge, causing the cooler to work harder and using more energy. A common trick to test the seal is to place a dollar in the door and close it. If the dollar is hard to pull out, the seal is strong, but if it falls out, it’s time to replace that seal.
Stock plenty of food
Kirsten Ritchie, director of sustainable design at Gensler Corporation in San Francisco, tells the Vegetarian Times that full fridges use less energy than empty ones, but users should be careful to strike a balance. More food means there is less space for the fridge to cool, but you don’t want it so full that air has trouble circulating.
Swap plastic for glass
Ritchie also suggests fridge owners opt for glass containers over plastic, since glass keeps food colder, helping the fridge work more efficiently.
Use ice trays and water pitchers
Ice and water dispensers boost energy usage by 14-20%, so switching to filtered water pitchers and trays of ice can have a huge impact on daily energy costs.
A dirty fridge is a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Even a small spill can invite bacteria, which in turn will cause other foods to go bad more quickly. Clean the fridge with eco-friendly products or DIY green cleaners to give your food a fighting chance.
Certain areas of the fridge are naturally colder than others. Avoid spoilage and food waste by storing the most vulnerable foods in the coldest areas (often the back and bottom) and the most temperature sensitive ones in warmer spots (the door). If you’re unsure where your fridge runs cold, pick up a fridge thermometer and test different spots.
Buy a new fridge
At a certain point, the greenest option is to ditch the fridge entirely for a newer model. Refrigerators generally last 10 to 17 years, and when they’ve naturally run through that lifetime, they may become an emissions liability. Despite the environmental cost of producing a new fridge, replacing a clunky, old, inefficient model with a shiny, new, eco-friendly option is still a net positive for the environment.