NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – For some who believe in sustainable living, it’s not enough to just recycle and compost. They have reduced their annual waste to zero or close to it. Maybe they got rid of the dryer or gave up on air travel.
In the case of Manhattan resident Josh Spodek, his efforts to go packaging-free changed his mindset so quickly that it inspired him to reduce his electricity consumption to almost zero. He also got rid of the refrigerator, which he said was the biggest source of electricity consumption in his Greenwich Village apartment.
Spodek started with a decision to stop consuming packaged goods, and one small step led to another. Now, Spodek experiences living almost without a power grid in a city that epitomizes the power grid in more ways than one.
“It was a change of mindset followed by continuous improvement,” says Spodek. First he unplugged the refrigerator for three winter months, and about six months the following year (from November to early spring, when he usually kept food by the window for about two days). Now, she’s been without a fridge for over a year.
Spodek was quick to point out that he’s not against refrigeration systems in general, but considers it unnecessary for everyone to have them running 24/7. He said refrigerators are rare in many parts of the world.
“People in Manhattan lived without refrigeration until the middle of the 20th century,” he says, “so it’s obviously doable.”
His critics say that this experiment should not be taken lightly.
“If some foods go bad, people’s lives can be in danger. Some dairy products go bad very easily and quickly, if you’re not careful,” says Frank Talley, founder and president of the New York-based Refrigeration Institute. Huh.”
Spodek recalls unplugging his fridge for the first time: “Honestly, I wasn’t sure I could survive a week without it. I didn’t really have a plan for how I’d manage without one, but I figured it wouldn’t kill me and I could always bring it back.
Being a vegetarian definitely helps, since you don’t need to keep meat or dairy products in the fridge.
Skeptics, and there are many, insist that if one did not have a refrigerator, they would be forced to go out almost daily to buy food. For those with large families or those who need to drive for groceries, more frequent shopping trips may reduce the energy savings from unplugging appliances. Not to mention, the discomfort would be intolerable for most.
In addition, improvements to fridges over the years mean they now typically use less electricity than heating systems or water heaters.
“While using less energy is always laudable, most households can make a big impact by switching to more efficient methods of heating and cooling their home,” says Joe Vukovich, energy efficiency advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Although refrigerators “used to be extremely inefficient in the 1970s and 1980s, their energy efficiency has increased dramatically since then” and continues to improve, he adds. Many stores recycle older refrigerators as well, and some utility companies offer incentives for replacing older models.
Plus, simply using your fridge differently can make a difference, Vukovich says: For example, opening the door less often saves energy.
“I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement, but the story of the Greener fridge is a great success story,” says Vukovich.
Still, Spodek stresses that refrigerators often run non-stop: “If everyone could live without a refrigerator for, say, two weeks during the year, that would save an extraordinary amount of electricity.”
And they might learn something along the way.
In addition to saving energy, Spodek—who works as an executive coach, teaches leadership as an assistant professor at New York University, and writes blogs and podcasts about his experiences—says that not having a refrigerator His quality of life has improved. He buys fresh produce at street markets, gets boxes of vegetables from a community-supported agriculture cooperative, stocks dried beans and grains, and has become adept at a few fermentation techniques.
He cooks with an electric pressure cooker and, very rarely, a toaster oven, both powered by a portable solar panel system connected to several batteries. Because you live in a city apartment, you have to take 11 flights of stairs up (and then down) twice a day to the roof of your building.
It is a practice he describes as “almost spiritual”. He says that when he climbs the stairs, he thinks of people around the world who live without modern conveniences. “By doing this, I’m definitely learning more about their cultures than if I just fly somewhere for a week.”
Without a fridge, she has also learned to cook better and use a wider variety of seasonal vegetables.
“In the winter, it’s just beetroot, carrots, potatoes and onions, plus dried beans and grains. I realized this is how cooking works: You take what you have and make it taste good.” , ” he says. “And now the only food I have to buy is before it goes bad, or pickle it to make it last a little longer.”
Another sign of their efforts to live more sustainably: Spodek says they haven’t thrown out trash since 2019 (they still didn’t produce enough non-compostable and non-recyclable waste to fill it is) and hasn’t taken a plane since 2016 (his parents live nearby).
While the world may be the same after one person unplugs their fridge, Spodek notes that, with the zero waste movement, “what I do counts.”
”To be an example for millions of people so that they can see it is possible? that’s huge.”