YES! But How? Ditch the Fridge

It’s time for me to replace my refrigerator and I was wondering if I really need another as big as the last. I’d like to downsize or be rid of it altogether.
Robby and Oliver

Our editorial interns, Robert Mellinger and Oliver Lazenby, answer your practical questions on sustainable living.

Great-granny knew that most foods actually don’t need refrigeration and that other methods often work better to preserve freshness and flavor. Many fruits and veggies are best kept out of the fridge, but in a cool, ventilated space.

A closet, mudroom, basement, or garage may work if you’d like to create a modern version of great-granny’s pantry. If you live in a low-humidity area, you could try a zeer, a North African pot-in-pot that keeps contents cool by evaporation. If you’re ambitious and your home permits, you could create a root cellar or look into building a cold cabinet into the north wall of your home.

Some city dwellers live fridge-free by shopping locally and often, container gardening, and joining a community garden or CSA. People who have access to land may be able to grow more of their own food and harvest as needed. Leafy greens, for example, may be harvested repeatedly, and many root vegetables stay fresh in the ground. Healthy hens in the backyard provide an ongoing supply of fresh eggs (unwashed eggs have a protective coating that helps preserve them at room temperature). Some people who’ve kicked the ice habit find that drinking water cool, rather than iced, is actually better for their digestion.

If you do decide to replace your old fridge with a smaller one, look at Energy Star ratings and keep in mind that chest freezers and refrigerators are much more efficient than the standard upright models. Finally, disposal of refrigerators should involve careful recovery and recycling, particularly for older models that contain CFCs. So make sure your old fridge is handled according to the guidelines of the EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal Program.



  • If you're looking for practical ways to live sustainably, just ask us.

  • I’ve read that composting human waste is much more environmentally
    friendly than disposing of it in water-based sewage systems. Could I
    install a composting toilet in my home?
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