Another Day, Another Dollar

The average American is fairly conscious of their monetary spending. With an issue such as climate change why not use this reality to our advantage? Truth be told, a number of daily activities can be altered to help the planet without hurting your wallet!

While this may seem like old news, I want to reiterate some very simple, money saving changes that we can make to reduce waste and improve the climate trajectory. Since food is necessary and continually present in our daily lives, let’s focus our attention there. In fact, let’s cut an even smaller slice of the pie and consider our household refrigerators and the foods we put in them.

The average American household spends around $6600 on food annually – about $4000 on groceries with an additional $2600 spent eating out [4]. Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 5.27.34 PMBehind housing and transportation, food represents one of the largest portions of the American budget – approximately 13% [4]. Unfortunately, a significant portion of this money is wasted when food spoils or is left uneaten. Scientists believe that approximately 40% of American food is wasted [2,6]. While much of this waste can be attributed to practices outside of individual homes, it’s hard to deny our partial accountability. In fact, the average American is accused of wasting 25% of the food they bring home [6]. Ok, lets do the math – $4000 spent on groceries and 25% goes to waste – the average household throws out $1000 each year! If you had 1000 dollars would you wrap it in plastic and toss it into a landfill? Probably not.

As a consumer we can only benefit from reducing our waste. Some strategies for reducing waste are as easy as planning meals, being conscious of the foods in your home and strategically using the freezer. If $1000 isn’t enough of an incentive, consider the environmental impact of these simple changes. By reducing household waste we can moderate greenhouse gas emission from multiple angles. Reduced waste means reduced demand – food production is a major source of carbon emission – lower consumer demands equal lower emissions [2].
Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 11.08.18 AMAdditionally, less food decomposing in landfills means less methane entering the atmosphere [2].

Why not protect our pockets and the environment at the same time – being aware and resourceful with the food in our fridge is a small contribution with double the incentive. Speaking of refrigerators… lets shift gears and consider the “cool incentives” this appliance has to offer. Chilling food allows us to significantly extend shelf life, improve food accessibility and when used appropriately, reduce waste. The refrigerator has its down sides of course. Refrigerators require a constant supply of electricity and account for 10 to 15 percent of a household’s monthly energy consumption [3]. Being one of the biggest electricity consumers in the average home, its important to ensure that this appliance is running as efficiently as possible [3].

When considering energy saving alternative, new “Energy Star” rated refrigerators are by far the most efficient option – up to 50% more efficient then their older counterparts [1,3]. However, replacing the refrigerator is not in the cards for many of us. Luckily, there are a few simple steps we can take to boost the efficiency of any run-of-the-mill refrigerator.

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 7.16.13 PMFirst off, check the temperature settings! Your refrigerator should be set at 38 to 42 degrees Fahrenheit and your freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees Fahrenheit [5]. Saving energy is as easy as the flip of a switch – the “power-save” or “energy saver” switch that is – be sure it is turned on! Dropping the thermostat down by even 1 degree can make a significant difference in energy consumption [3].

Location and upkeep are other simple fixes that should be considered. Take a few minutes to look at your fridge. Is it near a large window or located by a heating vent?
If moving your fridge isn’t an option – and lets be real, its not for most – then consider covering the window to reduce sunlight exposure and be sure to close any heat vents near by. Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 7.16.51 PMReducing external heat sources will improve refrigerator efficiency [1]. While your admiring your refrigerator take a gander at the condenser coil (typically found on the back or underside of the fridge). Is it clean? Likely not. Cleaning the condenser coil is a very simple task that can improve the efficiency of your refrigerator by 1/3! [3] That’s basically free money!

Why not use monetary incentives to our advantage, sure these changes help the planet, but they also keep money in your pocket – anyone can afford to save money! These changes might seem trivial, but minor day-to-day actions add up. So, get acquainted with your refrigerator, give it a little TLC and lighten its load. As for the food, be aware of your purchases and the contents in your fridge; don’t let wasted food toll the environment, or your wallet!

Help the planet: Waste less. Save money!

Sources:

[1] http://learn.compactappliance.com/refrigerator-efficiency-tips/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/03/upshot/what-you-can-do-about-climate-change.html?_r=0

[3] http://www.livescience.com/4091-10-ways-improve-earth-health.html

[4] http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/03/07/the-average-american-spends-this-much-on-groceries.aspx

[5] http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/genergy.asp

[6] http://foodshift.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/FoodWasteStatisticsandBibliography.pdf

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2 thoughts on “Another Day, Another Dollar

  1. Skye, I had never thought about cleaning my refrigerator’s condenser coil nor had I thought about altering the microclimate of my fridge. That’s good stuff! I liked how you built a rapport with the reader by acknowledging that some changes weren’t feasible for everyone. The only thing I think you could have improved is maybe adding more specifics: where exactly can I find the condenser coil, what should I clean it with, where on a fridge is it exactly and what does it look like. How much might I stand to save by tending my fridge? I suppose an interested reader can go look these things up, but if you’re asking people to make a change you should make it as easy as possible for them, right? I am also curious what foods people tend to throw away most. Is it rotting vegetables or expired packaged food? I am a fan of the somewhat-new trend to eat parts of vegetables that often just get tossed; City Market makes a broccoli stem slaw for example.

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  2. I like how you combined how to save money and the planet at the same. Being sustainable can be expensive at times so that was nice. I don’t know much about refrigerators and in this post I learned how to make them more efficient, so thank you. I thought it was interesting to learn that we waste about 25% of our food which comes out to be 1000 dollars. That is a lot and I am definitely going to be more conscious next time I go grocery shopping. I think it’s great that you can be sustainable while saving money.

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