Eco-Saturday: Economies of scale — the fridge

Make your fridge pull double-duty as a dry-erase board.
Make your fridge pull double-duty as a dry-erase board.

If you’re considering buying a new refrigerator, do something for the planet first: Walk into your kitchen, open your current fridge, and throw away everything you do not honestly intend to eat. If you’re anything like us, by the time you finish tossing all the jars with one pickle slice floating in them, condiments you’ve tried but didn’t like, and Tupperware containers full of freezer-burned leftovers that have been there since the Carter administration, you’ll probably be left with, like, half a jar of mayonnaise and a six-pack of beer.

With your inventory of inedible crap gone, go to the grocery store, buy a week’s worth of groceries, and look at the space it takes up. That’s the amount of space you actually need. Don’t buy more than that. You’ll just end up paying to cool empty space.

Generally, the smaller the refrigerator, the less energy it uses. There is a point of diminishing returns (a dorm fridge will suck almost as much power as a 12-cubic-foot model), but in general, smaller is better for the planet and your pocketbook.

If you have a big family, and you really need a big refrigerator, insist on an Energystar model — preferably one with the freezer on the bottom. This is not only handy, but it’s also more energy-efficient: Cold air sinks, so it makes sense to put the coldest part of the appliance on the bottom.

If you’re not ready to buy a new refrigerator, but you’ve got a lot of empty space in your current one, fill a few plastic jugs with water, freeze them, and use them to cool things down so the compressor doesn’t have to run as often.

Instant shopping list.
Paperless list.

One more thing: You may have noticed in the picture above that our fridge has scribbles on the front. That’s because I use it as a dry-erase board/instant grocery list. I just keep a magnetic dry-erase marker on the side and use it to jot things down as we run out.

When I’m ready to go to the story, instead of transcribing the list (which wastes paper, ink and time), I just take a picture of it with my iPhone and set it as my lock-screen wallpaper. Ta-da! Instant shopping list, and I save a tree. Or at least a couple of twigs.