Annals of self-loathing


Apparently the latest thing in low-impact living is getting rid of your fridge. The NYTimes naturally has the details, though the featured performers are, improbably, a couple of public servants in Ottawa City, Canada: 

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. 

 Not everyone is sold on the idea:

Deanna Duke, who lives in Seattle and runs the site Ms. Willis visited, said that taking a stand for or against unplugging has become “a badge of honor” for those on either side. “It’s either ‘look how far I’m willing to go,’ or ‘look how far I’m not willing to go,’ ” she said. For her part, Ms. Duke may refrain from watering her lawn in an effort at conservation, but she’s firmly in the pro-refrigerator camp. “I can’t think of any circumstances, other than an involuntary extreme situation, that would make me unplug my fridge,” she said. “The convenience factor is too high.”


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Annals of self-loathing

  1. Uh, wow. Look at far they’re willing to go, and conversely, look at how far I’m not willing to go.

  2. We live in strange times, when people yearn to return to the stone age.

    • True! It’s amazing how far people will go to try to make a point.

  3. We gotta un-install microwave ovens
    No custom kitchens deliveries
    We gotta re-move these refrigerators
    We gotta re-move these colour TV’s

  4. I’ve lived without a refrigerator before, though not by choice. It seriously helps to live in the city, within walking distance of, say, milk. Admittedly I live an irresponsible bachelor life at present, but I have to say that all I use my fridge for is milk, yogourt, yesterday’s leftovers, and a lifetime supply of diet soft drinks. The freezer is pretty handy for big batch cooking, though, I must say.

    If we’re getting all stone-age virtuous, though, I must recommend that people stop watching TV. It doesn’t affect your carbon footprint, it doesn’t soothe your conscience, but it frees you from the hive mind and actually gives you a lot of free time you didn’t know you had. I’ve converted a dozen people to the no-TV lifestyle and not one of them has relapsed. You don’t need rhetoric when the pleasures of a drug-free life speak for themselves.

    • Ah but Jack, how much of that free time do you now spend chained to a new master, albeit a far more rewarding one?

      • Quite right!

        I do wonder if my generation, especially those who work online all day, won’t be going blind at some point. TV-watchers will certainly have the last laugh then.

      • Ah but Jack, how much of that free time do you now spend chained to a new master

        kc, are you referring to Paul Wells? (kidding, kidding…)

        Jack, I couldn’t agree more with your point about TV. I now check out the few shows I like online or on DVD, and the increase in free time is considerable (some of which I squander here).

        I find that the best line to encourage people to wean is the following: “Nobody on their deathbed ever regrets that they didn’t spend enough time watching TV.” Trite, but effective.

        • Dear Kermie [ sorry but that picture is so cool ]
          The PW remark is appropriate. Only today i was whining to him about feeling like the organ grinders monkey. I’m sure i heard sniggering from on high.

    • No TV at all, J@ack?? Great, you just made Jaime J. Weinman and the Landers sisters cry.

      • I know, I feel bad. They do such good work. It’s like Nic Nanos. True professionals and fine upstanding folk who, unfortunately, I would like to see deprived of gainful employment.

    • J@ck, depending on where in the country you lived, you could also be within walking distance of milk. But get up at 4:30, would you please, Bessie’s getting mighty uncomfortable.

      • Alas, MYL, I’m a few too many generations removed from Arcadia. And the proof is that it took me a few minutes to figure out what the hell you meant by “Bessie.”

  5. Did you actually read Rachel’s story? She’s got a freezer. She rotates 2-L soda bottles as ice packs from freezer to a cooler. So she’s running an inefficient fridge by cycling thawed soda bottles back to the freezer’s compressor. A physicist this lady is not. There’s a halfway decent chance that this ridiculous attempt at inefficient refrigeration is actually increasing her carbon footprint.

    But hey, lady, enjoy the inconvenience if it helps you sleep better at night. Yeesh.

    • In addition, the heat normally given off by the refrigerator will need to be made-up by the furnace in the wintertime. In the summertime, the reverse, but doubtful this couple runs a/c then.

    • There’s a halfway decent chance that this ridiculous attempt at inefficient refrigeration is actually increasing her carbon footprint.

      Sure, freezing a couple of soda bottles is going to use up as much energy as cooling an entire refrigerator would.

      • Read the article, Robert. Mrs Muston has a freezer in the basement, for meat and veg, but does not use fridge. Depending on how old the freezer is, the article does not say, myl could be right. A modern fridge would be much more energy-efficient than an old freezer.

        • My ma always kept the meat and dairy in what was hopefully called the “cold safe” (basically a large enameled tin with holes in it). No doubt we had a lower carbon footprint, though I seem to recall that he got a lot of “stomach bugs” and related intestinal difficulties. Any connection?

        • Mrs Muston has a freezer in the basement

          Yes, but that’s all she has now. She no longer has a refrigerator that was doing nothing more for her than wasting her money.

          • Anyone want to try to explain thermodynamics to Mr. M? jwl and I haven’t gotten through.

          • Anyone want to try to explain thermodynamics to Mr. M?

            If you run 2 appliances they consume x amount of electricity. If you run 1 appliance it consumes only a % of x–for simplicity’s sake, lets assume half–of that electricity. Your point is that the extra demand on that remaining appliance to freeze some soda bottles will consume the same amount of electricity as the 2nd appliance. Clearly you need to have thermodynamics explained to you.

          • Actually, I said there’s a halfway decent chance it’ll consume more, but my main point is it’s not saving her near the energy use to make this bizarre lifestyle statement worthwhile. Well, scratch that. If there’s value in having your flakiness appear in the Times, I suppose there may be some worth for her…

            The freezer compressor is doing double duty. The freezer door is opening and closing not just for the occasional insertion of groceries and removal of frozen veggies, but to continuously remove ice bottles and insert warm bottles for re-freezing. The current excuse for a fridge is a cooler, likely less efficient at keeping warm room temperature at bay than a modern refirgerator.

            And that is not even accounting for the inefficiencies mentioned by others (any heat produced by the kitchen fridge places less demands on home heating needs in colder seasons, smaller purchases relying on refrigeration by the corner store, fewer meal choices at home making eating out a more desirable option, the carbon footprint associated with the hospital stay for food poisoning).

            Oh, and if I recall the photo, she still has the refirgerator, doing nothing more for her than providing an uncomfortable sit-upon in the kitchen.

            A decent cold room (insulated from the rest of the house) for stuff that doesn’t have to stay at exactly 4 degrees C, and a small efficient fridge for the rest? Cool, I will join the applause. But this example is just silly.

    • Hey Madeyoulook,

      You are right. Am am no physicist.

      But the NYT article left out a key point.

      In the winter I freeze the pop bottles outside.

      And the other key point is that my electricity consumption is now at 17% of the Canadian national average.

      I’m not advocating that people go fridge free. I’m advocating a lighter living lifestyle. And I’m pretty happy with my 17% accomplishment.

      Feel free to check out my blog if you want to read about the other things I am doing to live lightly

      • Indeed, that is an important left-out point. And I will be happy to tool around your blog this weekend (yikes, more energy expenditure…). I remain to be convinced that this is a smart move, energy-wise or just plain daily living wise, when it’s hot out.

        Furthermore, just because the refrigerated food stays at the store longer until you can pick it up for quick consumption, the moving electrons may not appear on your bill, but those electrons had to move somehow anyway, at whatever cost to the planet you believe that counts for. No?

        • “just because the refrigerated food stays at the store longer”

          Come on, be serious. Do you reserve your frozen peas months in advance, like an inter-library loan?!?

          • Nope. I just take my oversized pimped-up SUV (with the A/C maxed out and the sound system notching the Richter scale a tick) over to prime-agricultural-space-destroying big-box Costco and I… walk right by the peas. Ever since I became of voting age I have decided I don’t have to eat those disgusting buggers anymore.

      • Rachel, no disrespect intended, good for what you are doing. But, in the winter, why not indulge and rather than just two 2 litre bottles, how about a whole bunch of them and then stick them and your food in the unplugged fridge? It’s insulated. What you are doing is basically running a manual heat pump. Some savings could also be accomplished if you stuck your freezer in the unheated garage in the winter (if you have one).

        And btw – just a heads up if you intend to restart the old fridge at sometime. You may find out that manufacturers recommend against unplugging your fridge then restarting it later (say one was to go on vacation). This can lead to condensation/collecting of water in and around the coils, leading to corrosion and eventual release of the refrigerant – something to look into.

  6. and how much energy is further consumed by constantly needing to buy and almost immediately consumed, how much more time is being spent by individual in pursuit of no-fridge and finally does this also precipitate more eating out?

    • uhh no I did not read it so yeah my bad. having a freezer and that bottle thing is cheating,

  7. Ah, but those living without the fridge are hypocrites if they shop at grocery stores and eat at restaurants that use … refrigeration. Seriously, the fewer options of food you can keep in the house, the more often you’ll eat out, or (as another post pointed out) going to the store to buy stuff more often, from their fridge.

    • I don’t think her point is to live without refrigeration. It’s to live without a refrigerator.

      The store? They’ll be running their refrigerator whether Rachel buys their milk or not. That carbon footprint doesn’t change. Rachel is still paying for whatever portion of refrigeration the store uses to cool and keep the milk she buys. Rachel’s point is that she is reducing HER carbon footprint.

  8. I read that article yesterday in the Times and I had a feeling that you might post it here with some type of comment.

    My favourite part was about No Impact Man.

  9. It’s too bad the NYT article only covered the unplugging of the fridge and left out the link to her site (http://efficiencyexperiments.blogspot.com/) that feature other efforts that have enabled Rachel to reduce her carbon footprint to 17% of the national average. A feat most of us, despite our best efforts, still haven’t achieved. Obviously, doing so has required tough choices and some inconvenience, since the current infrastructure and mindset of the masses isn’t yet in favour of around addressing the dire state we are *all* in. I’ll continue to seek the advice of pathfinders who show that it can, in fact, be done.

    • Well, I’m not sure this story, once you get into the details, is worthy of a piece in the NY Times. Maybe a link on the GPC website.

      The logical extension of this story would be to compare the average person with a homeless person who hangs out at the library during the day, sleeps in a shelter, showers at the Y, and eats at the foodbank or equivalent. Small carbon footprint, true. But not really newsworthy.

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