Hopelessly fridgeless (Day 78)…


OK, listen up Little Blog in the Big Woods: I did it. I unplugged my fridge. Not just the freezer, the entire fridge. NO FRIDGE. Do I get green-freak status yet or what? (No offense, I mean, living off-the-grid is cool and all, but when you’re in the city, the grid is like a wealthy, temperamental uncle you somewhat resent yet hopelessly depend on for cold beer)

As you faithful readers know, this blog is all about baby steps. But the thing is, when I turned off my freezer, my fridge started getting warmer too, despite the fact that there are two separate dials. GreenYogini warned of this in her comment, but by then it was too late. I tried to figure out a system of occasionally switching the whole unit on for an hour, then leaving it off for the rest of the day, but it was getting far too complicated. In the end, I knew the only true green choice was to follow Greenpa and No Impact Man, and just unplug the whole darn thing.

I made sure to finish all my vegetables and dairy products first, then gradually started moving stuff to the pantry. Finally, I switched it off for good, leaving nothing other than my stale box of baking soda in there. On the one hand, it’s been interesting learning about all the things that didn’t really need to be refrigerated — at least for very long — in the first place (margarine, jams, potatoes, ketchup, mustard and most other condiments, apples, almond butter, blueberries, etc). But on the other hand, it’s been sad opening my cupboards to find yellow, wilted kale that was only a day old or some carrots that had gone bendy after less than 12 hours.

It also means no yogurt or soy milk, unless I consume it all within a day or keep it on my balcony while the weather is still relatively cool. As well, I now have to drink my water and beer at room temperature — to be honest, this hasn’t really bothered me yet, however I’m definitely not investing in any white wine or bubbly unless I buy it from the LCBO‘s refrigerated section and drink the entire bottle right away (which could very well happen).

This is hardly a change I expect others to make, however if you’re like me — that is, if you live in a city, have some time to spare each day for a walk to the corner store, have only yourself (and your kitty) to feed, and are almost a little too concerned about the environment but still more or less in control of your mental faculties — it’s worth trying the no-fridge lifestyle.

Who knows, maybe it’ll become yet another movement. I might have to start labelling myself a flexitarian, locavorian, organic-only, fair-trade, fridgeless slow-foodie. Are there any restaurants catering to this?

58 Responses to Hopelessly fridgeless (Day 78)…

  1. Respect!…followed by disbelief (in a good way, not the ‘I think you are lying’ way). I believe this will give you the respect of even the most radical eco-greeno people. I was planning on using your steps as a guide for myself, and though I don’t know how I will feel after 78 days of changes, I can’t believe I’d be ready to lose the fridge. To me, this marks a real departure from the things that any of us could do, to the things that only a person with a true commitment to change can bring about. And maybe, with daily steps it becomes easier to get to that point. And that’s why reading your blog is so enjoyable…because you see the change as it is happening. It’s cool, because you still write and think like an ‘outsider’ to the whole movement, yet you are right there in it. Just wait…Good Morning America will probably come knocking soon.

  2. Alina says:

    Way to go! But in my book, I think you crossed the ‘freak’ line now… Sorry! At this point you could probably be cast-able for that MTV reality show, you know, the ‘green-freaks only’ one :p (saw it somewhere on treehugger).

    Seriously now, you should investigate what’s the coolest spot in your kitchen to keep the veggies, most importantly, they should be in the dark, you know, in a ‘cool dry’ place.

    Oh, and I saw your blog on wordpress ‘top blogs’ recently!! Congrats!

  3. climatepolice says:

    On most refrigerators, the freezer provides the cold air for both compartments. So, if you turn the freezer down or off, the refrigerator will get warm too.

    I suggest that you invest in a small portable refrigerator that can be solar powered. That way you can at least keep your soy milk and yogurt cold.


  4. Shawn says:

    Wow, you’ve officially passed me in your fanaticism. From my perspective the no fridge step adds an inordinate amount of inconvenience. All these changes are worth nothing if your daily life is too burdensome.

    Is there possibly a small bar size fridge that runs fairly efficiently?

  5. Brad says:

    Living in the city as you do, why wouldn’t you give up using your car before taking this drastic step? The TTC’s a great way to get around–eating wilted veggies is not a great way to eat.

  6. gettinggreen says:

    Brad, trust me, I would gladly take the TTC to work and back every day, did it not require a two hour journey of streetcar, subway, then bus — compared to if I drive, which takes 20 minutes going along Lakeshore and up the DVP. The hour and a half that I save on the way home gives me plenty of time to get some fresh veggies 🙂

    And Shawn, I think this will be less burdensome than it sounds. I still don’t feel like an eco-fanatic or anything… it just means less dairy products and warm beverages. There are worse things in life. But do let me know if I start sounding preachy about it!

  7. Rhett says:

    Good on you! I wish we could get away with something like this, but here in Ft. Lauderdale, we endlessly battle the intense heat.

  8. Suzanne says:

    What popped into my head is won’t you be creating more waste by consuming smaller quantities of items like milk etc so that you don’t have to store anything that would need refridgeration? This definitely seems an extreme move to me but good for you giving it a go.

  9. gettinggreen says:

    Good point, Suzanne — I did consider this when thinking about soy milk and for a second thought about buying the juice-box sizes of them. But I realized that was just far too much packaging and not worth it (so for now, my regular-sized jug of soy milk is on the balcony). But other than this, I’m not buying anything in smaller quantities. Carrots come in bunches, a head of lettuce is a head of lettuce, an apple is an apple, etc. I’m definitely very aware of packaging and rest assured I’m not consuming any more of it because of this change!

  10. Greenpa says:

    Huzzah! My warmest congratulations! Very cool! 🙂

  11. Lori V. says:

    Good going, Vanessa! Unfortunately, as we’ve talked about before, I don’t think I could get away with this move; there are five of us, and I don’t think it would be terribly “green” to drive my SUV every day to the market to get fresh stuff every day.

  12. Lori V. says:

    Greenpa, I love that… “warmest” congrats! HAHAHAHAHHA! 😛

  13. Greenpa says:

    Ok, with that out of my system- 3 suggestions:

    1) You could help convince the Shawns of the world by posting time estimates on your blog entries for a while; eg., “Time spent coping with NoFridge today; 6.5 minutes.” It gets easier as you go, and when it’s second nature, it’s painless.

    2) You might try keeping your carrots and kale – in the UnFridge. Their big problem is humidity, not temperature; and the crisper drawer would still keep them crisp. If you took the drawer over to the sink once a day, and rinsed it out with cold tap water, and rinsed the carrots and radishes and lettuce likewise, then put them back- they’d stay crisp just fine. As long as things don’t stay there TOO long, you shouldn’t have much trouble with invading Fuzzies; and the daily rinse in tapwater is a big help there.

    3) Folks seem to have a generally vague conception of how evaporative coolers really work. Poor Colin aka NIM is trying to get that “pot in a pot” thing to work – in an apartment in NYC. I think there’s not much hope it will prove useful, since it was intended to work in a desert. In order to cool, such things must have – Water; Shade; and Wind. All 3. Dry air helps a lot, too, but if it’s windy enough, it’s not so important. Point is; if you really want a nice cool beer- get a canvas bag, put the beer in it; get it soaking wet; and hang it somewhere in the shade where the wind can blow over it. It’ll never be “refrigerated”; but it will definitely be cool enough to generate “aaahhh” sounds. The more wind the better, but a simple breeze is enough; don’t let it dry out, and remember the sun moves.


  14. Greenpa says:

    Lori- definitely don’t drive the SUV everyday. Hm. 5 of you? Anybody there got a bike? Or a job, where they could stop off at the store on the way home?

  15. You rock my green world. And two add in my nutritional sense here are two things i would like to say:
    1- water does it’s job much better at room temperature. Just like you don’t want to waste the world’s energy cooling your fridge, you shouldn’t botehr wasting your body energy warming your water. At room temperature- the water will go straight into the body’s cells, into teh inestines, kidenys etc and get right to work in hydrating and cleaning.
    2- margarine? please eliminate it. I don’t have an environmental reason- though it could be said that we could avoid all foods that must go through either A0 a factory or 2) a chem lab, but margarone is also only one molecule away from being plastic. won’t go bad in the cupvoard- won’t even go bad if left out in teh sun in the summer for days at a time. not even a fly will land on it cause it’s not really food. clarified butter (ghee) does not need refrigeration- either does olive oil or coconut oil (all good alternatives to marge/butter). just please up your intake of salmon, mackerel and halibut to make up for being unable to store the important omega 3 rich polyunsaturates like flax and hemp oil that need to be stored in cool dark places.

  16. Kim says:

    If you DO eliminate margarine, you could get a butter bell. Google it. It’s some sort of french thing where water is used to keep the butter from melting. I hear it works pretty well.

    Does this mean you’re buying less fresh things and using more cupboard items? If it were me, my fruit already goes bad fast enough, so not having a fridge would make me buy less, and rely on dried/canned items more, no?

  17. Katherine says:

    If you’re interested in what Kim said about the French butter bell: my family has one because my mom is British and likes real, room-temp butter for her toast. It works pretty well – its basically a small cup that you put a bit of water into, and then a second smaller cup (where you put the butter) that fits into and over the water cup. We live in Arizona, and even though we have A/C the house does warm up a bit during the day. The butter holds up most of the time!

  18. deliberately says:

    Vanessa — You rock! Please keep us updated on the progress of this step as I agree with Greenpa that a deeper understanding is needed by all of us as to what this looks like over time. Thanks for having the guts to step out of your comfort zone and make radical changes!

  19. Kate says:

    Vanessa–a few tips from working on a farm–try storing your carrots in slightly damp sand, and try storing your kale like a bunch of flowers in a glass of water. The carrots, if cool enough, will keep like this for many months. The kale should keep a few days.

    Good luck!!

  20. wilma says:

    hi, also from a farm–carrots that are harvested in the fall are not refrigerated when stored throughout the winter–a cool, dry place is all that’s needed.

    i get huge quantities of carrots every time my parents visit, and i keep them in a burlap sack in my basement (not a good idea if you have mice!). i’m not sure if you have access to a basement (this is the first post i read of yours, so i don’t know if you are living in an apartment, etc), but even keeping them in a cool, dry cupboard is not a bad idea.

    also, soaking the carrots for several hours prior to cutting them up (if you’re eating them raw) also helps with the bendi-ness…

  21. wilma says:

    re above: i mean soaking them in cold water…sorry for the lack of info!

  22. domideas says:

    Ahhh yes… but what happened to that jar of mayo?

  23. gettinggreen says:

    Haha, I finally took the jar of mayo out and gave it away… it was still good (I think!). Also emptied my ice cube trays that were full of water… although you never know when you’ll need water in cube form…

  24. You are so HARD CORE! Totally amazing.

  25. […] for 3 decades. He says if you live in a city- you do not need a refrigerator. AT ALL. And there are people who are trying it. Wow. I’ve just experienced a mind […]

  26. Chris says:

    My problem is that no one makes chemical-free ice pops.

    And I love my iced treats…

  27. Nicole says:

    Maybe you could just get a mini fridge. I’m sure it uses WAY less energy than a large family-size one. My other initial thought is that you could use something like a cooler to try to keep perishable veggies (like the kale/carrots) chilled a little bit longer. Not sure how well that’d work, but it might work better that nothing.

  28. lloyd alter says:

    don’t forget the nice cool clean water in the toilet tank! stick your beer there.

  29. Juliet says:

    Hee, lloyd! Gross but true.

  30. gmpicket says:

    If you point your browser at http://www.energystar.gov/ – they have a list of fridges and how much energy they use. If you download the excel version and sort it by kwh, you will find that the most efficient fridges are made by Sunfrost. And their regular size fridges use less energy than any small cube/compact fridge. Of course, getting a Sunfrost fridge will cost you upwards of $3000 (US).

    What about buying some ice and putting that in your unplugged fridge?

  31. […] option, as suggested by LBITBW and accomplished by Green as a Thistle, is to just unplug the fridge altogether (though that may take me a while, I […]

  32. andrew says:

    Restaurants. Out here in Parkdale, cafe taste is probably the place to go. Wine and cheese bar with light meals also available. Jeremy, the owner is just switching up his wine list (which contains a number of local wines – many of which don’t suck).

    In addition, to deal with the whole Styrofoam-is-of-the-Devil conundrum, he refuses to do takeout unless you bring your own container. If you’re looking for some fairly traded organic coffee for takeout and forget your travel mug, he’ll even throw one in for free, this is how committed he is to saving the earth.

    For my wife and I, visiting this restaurant covers off on our love of good wine and good food, the reduction of takeout containers, support of local small business, and growing relationships that come from hanging out in a place owned by someone who is so socially and environmentally conscious in his business practices.

  33. Luke Gabriel says:

    So! I thought I should weigh in too. I’ve been living fridgeless for a whopping 4 days now, and I’m actually finding it incredibly easy. But, it’s only been 4 days. We’ll see! I do a lot of canoe camping and backpacking, so living fridgeless is not quite second nature, but I realized a long time ago, that if I can drop every scrap of food that I’ll need for a week into a boat, and push it 25 kms a dayI should be able to live within walking distance of a corner store and an easy bike ride of a grocery store no probs!

  34. Allen Klesh says:

    Well, I have now been without a fridge for… let’s see… 2 hours and 10 minutes. I’m ok! (so far). It’s tough, I kept using up food and using up food… till there was only some veggies in the freezer. But it was that last little bit, till finally I said. Enought! (Yes, I said it with the ! at the end). Thank you for leading the way!

  35. Jeffrey says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your no fridge life. I am the screenwriter of ‘Vivaldi’ which is in pre-production
    I’m here from L.A. working on my next script at the fabulous (d’ahlink) Minto suites which are incredibly quiet and private except for the fridge. Being vegan already and getting my food daily from Whole Foods which is, like, three, like, blocks away, I figured ‘what the hey’ do I need a fridge for anyway?’
    As your valiant essay so convincingly proved, I/you/they/us don’t. There’s hardly anything in there now anyway so I pulled the plug and it’s like a monastery in here. Me and the monks thank you. Let me know how the fridgeless life is going and I’ll do the same!

  36. Dark Green

    Vanessa Farquharson finished a year of small green changes today, one of which was to stop using a fridge. While I still need a fridge, I am going to push that thermostat higher (ie less cooling) and remove some of the things in it like condiments that…

  37. John Buer says:

    Unplugging a fridge does not save energy in the winter. The energy a fridge uses produces heat and therefore reduces the energy you would otherwise use to heat your home. It does save in the summer and saves double if you air condition your home.
    The same goes for lights. A compact fluorescent does not save energy in the heating season. The energy a regular bulb uses is 90% heat.

  38. mkcgh says:

    Are my nose and eyes enough to stay healthy fridge free? I heard about Vanessa for the first time today–wish I would have earlier! Nevertheless, I’m inspired, after reading this and Greenpa’s site, to “pull the plug” myself. I’m getting the general understanding that basically everything can be fridge-free. My biggest concern is food poisoning (I’ve had salmonella once–never again!). It seems to me that the list of what TO keep cold would be much shorter than what not to. I guess my question is–if something is going bad (I read the stuff on eggs, so I understand the drop test/nose test) like soup (after being kept closed in a crock pot for a few days) or jam or ketchup, etc…are there any tell-tale signs beyond green fuzz? I.e. can I trust my eyes and nose against things like botchilism, etc? Also, we don’t eat meat at home, so there are no carne issues. Should I assume that “unplugging” will be mostly food-poison free if we trust our nose and eyes?

  39. mkcgh says:

    alright, I did it! I am officially unplugged!

  40. good luck converting all the steak and potato personalities.

  41. […] This chick lived 365ish (leap year!) doing something green each day.  Not sure I could live without a fridge, but I think we all could do one thing a day to help the world. […]

  42. […] journalist, decided that going green could be simple. So each day for a year she made small (and not so small) green changes to her lifestyle. The end result of her journey is probably my favorite of all her […]

  43. […] fridge is the main culprit in my energy consumption. (I’m not going fridge-less as Greenpa and Green as a Thistle Vanessa endorse, I only shop once a week and drink too much milk for that.) I’m going to keep my old […]

  44. Thank you for setting such a great example. I think you are a lot braver than I am. Although I think about what really needs to be refrigerated. If I did unplug the refrigerator would need to go to the store more often which I usually drive to once a week. Hmmm. You’ve got my mind working. Thanks!

    Dagny McKinley
    organic apparel

  45. Bell Canoes says:

    Bell Canoes…

    OK listen up Little Blog in the Big Woods: I did it. I unplugged my fridge. Not just the freezer the[…]…

  46. Jarrett says:

    Wow. You must not have any kids.

  47. Laura says:

    I found your blog while looking for a plan to make an evaporative cooler for camping. 3 years a go I found a book but can’t remember the name and the author, from the NW states, described a cooler she used while in the back country workin as a park ranger. It was a basic frame 2-3 feet tall and about 1 foot by 1 foot with 2 or 3 shelves. She would put a bowl on the top shelf filled with water and cover the whole frame with canvas material. The moistrue would wick down and keep anything inside cool. I think it had an opening like tent flaps in the front which were tied closed. She described using it the 60’s and now own a farm. I can’t remember her name but it is also part of the tittle otf the book.
    Thought you might be interested in hearing about this idea. If i find out the name of the book and the author I will post it for you.

  48. Laura says:

    Wow just found it
    MaryJane’s Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook: For the Farmgirl in All of Us by MaryJane Butters


    She has some terrific ideas.

  49. […] of those energy hogs we aren’t quite ready to unplug.  (There are folks who have – check out Green as a Thistle or go straight to Little Blog in the Woods for the real dirt on living without a fridge.)  We […]

  50. Green Blog says:

    Check out our blog which has lots of green tips and ideas. http://www.cipacs.org

  51. Ian says:

    Switched off my fridge & separate freezer 3 days ago! I’m on a Vegan diet and found the fridge was basically used to keep soya milk & not much else and the freezer contained just a few frozen vegetables. I now have the soya outside in a bucket of water & will buy fresh or canned veg. For much of the year in the U.K. it’s cold enough to store stuff outside anyway. Strange not having the constant background noise in the house.

  52. […] links. One woman did a whole year of steps to being more environmentally sound, including going fridgeless. I was pretty impressed when I read about it and it would work here for at least 6 months of the […]

  53. […] not asking people to abandon their fridges like Green as Thistle. I’m not asking you to cut yourself off from the electricity grid like Greenpa. I’m not […]

  54. Andrea says:

    You can definitely live more conveniently than having to walk to the store each day. Tons of stuff lasts longer and there are alternative forms of refridgeration like using snow, ice boxes, and the easiest – cooling based on evaporation.

    You also just have to have lots of preserved or dry food at home…. check out my blog for more ideas…

  55. […] she revamped her life in many ways, both big and small (from pledging to not buy any more Q-tips to unplugging her fridge), and wrote all about the victories and heartaches along the way.  There’s a blog posting […]

  56. cap obv says:

    cosmo kramer?

  57. Allison says:

    I’m reading “Sleeping Naked is Green” right now. I was motivated by your decision to unplug your fridge. Today I bought a dorm fridge from Craigslist. I have a farm and next summer I will build an icehouse, next winter I will make and store ice, and then I will be fully fridge free but have the awesome benifit of an icehouse.

  58. With all the blogs out there with information on them with a ton of junk it’s nice to find a blog whose admin takes the time to create good information. Appreciate for the good read.

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