Keeping It Cool

Eco Living
Jun 29th, 2016 | By Jeremy Kranowitz

Recently, I went to my mother-in-law’s house for a family celebration. As usual, I was called upon to bring a second dining table up from the basement to fit 14 of us. In the basement, as always, the surplus food and drink for the big meal was stored in a second refrigerator that she keeps down there.

My mother-in-law recently renovated her kitchen and replaced an aging refrigerator with a new, energy-efficient one. And that also meant an upgrade to the basement refrigerator, which was previously a loud, inefficient monster of undetermined age (though the avocado green color probably gives it away).

This all got me thinking about second refrigerators. According to the last survey done in 2009 by the Department of Energy, approximately 26 million American households have a second refrigerator, and 86% of those run all year long. Perhaps not surprisingly, 13% of those second fridges are 15 to 19 years old, and 15% are more than 20 years old.

Those old refrigerators are shockingly less efficient than modern fridges. A fridge you buy today is 50% more energy efficient than one from 20 years ago. And since they often labor in uninsulated spaces like basements, garages and porches they have to work even harder to stay cold, especially in warm months. An old fridge can easily cost more than $1,000 in electricity per year!

A better approach would be to just buy the amount of food and beverages that can fit in your kitchen fridge, then go to the store when you need to restock. (For more smart shopping tips, check out these resources on Or, if you have a large family, it’s probably worth your while to upgrade your auxiliary fridge to the most efficient one you can afford.

When having a party, take a cue from my mother-in-law. Once upon a time her basement refrigerator was up and running all the time, but she now only plugs it in on an as-needed basis, a few days per year. If you follow her lead, remember to clean it out and unplug it after the event is over.

At Sustainable America we talk a lot about wasted food, and I’m happy to report that at this family party we did a good job of eating just about everything. The leftovers were distributed to guests, leaving nothing behind. If you have leftovers at parties this summer, find creative ways to eat them quickly, so they don’t go to waste.

Have fun, eat well, enjoy your family, and save money. Have a great summer!

Tagged: food waste, sustainable living, energy cost, green events, sustainable parties, refrigerators, Green Living

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