Trashing the Fridge

FOR the last two years, Rachel Muston, a 32-year-old information-technology worker for the Canadian government in Ottawa, has been taking steps to reduce her carbon footprint — composting, line-drying clothes, installing an efficient furnace in her three-story house downtown.

About a year ago, though, she decided to “go big” in her effort to be more environmentally responsible, she said. After mulling the idea over for several weeks, she and her husband, Scott Young, did something many would find unthinkable: they unplugged their refrigerator. For good.

Ms. Muston estimated that her own fridge, which was in the house when they bought it five years ago and most likely dates back much longer, used 1,300 kilowatt-hours per year, or produced roughly 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — the same amount from burning 105 gallons of gasoline. And even a newer, more efficient model, which could have cut that figure in half, would have used too much energy in her view.

Ms. Muston now uses a small freezer in the basement in tandem with a cooler upstairs; the cooler is kept cold by two-liter soda bottles full of frozen water, which are rotated to the freezer when they melt. (The fridge, meanwhile, sits empty in the kitchen.)

She acknowledges that living this way isn’t always convenient. For starters, it has altered the couple’s eating habits.

“When we had the fridge, we were eating a lot of prepared food from the grocery store,” she said. But the cooler has limited room, and the freezer is for meat and vegetables. Without the extra storage, Ms. Muston finds herself cooking more — which requires more time and forethought because items from the freezer must be thawed.

Seems extreme and some aspects of it are inconvenient. But it will reduce your carbon footprint, save energy and change one’s diet to a healthier one (saving money there too).

Asked whether the couple had to give up any cherished foods, Ms. Muston sighed. “Cold beer,” she said. “Scott can’t come home and grab a cold beer out of the fridge anymore. He has to put it in the cooler and wait an hour.”

That may be the hardest part to live with.