the joys of a smaller fridge

Your family might disagree, but there are upsides to having a smaller fridge. (Photo: Stokkete/Shutterstock)

Dan Nosowitz over at Domesticity doesn't like large American refrigerators much. In fact, it's more accurate to say that he hates them with a passion: 

The size of the average American fridge is ever expanding: Including all the old refrigerators still in service, the average volume is somewhere around 22 cubic feet, but take a look at the best-selling fridges at Sears or Walmart and you'll see that few new ones dip below 26. Many break the 30-cubic-foot mark. Most people don't need these comically large, oversized novelty fridges. In Europe, where people also cook and eat food, the average refrigerator is around 10 cubic feet, less than half the size of the American jumbo product.
As Nosowitz notes, the bulbous size of most American fridges has a very real ecological downside — consuming considerable amounts of energy 24 hours a day, with older fridges consuming the equivalent of 50 gallons of gasoline a year. (Here are some DIY tips you can use to make fridges more efficient.) While new energy-efficiency standards in 2001 improved things somewhat, the sheer size of American fridges still means they are consuming more than their overseas counterparts. 
But that's not even the half of it. According to Nosowitz, the Ameri-fridge's rap sheet goes beyond energy consumption, including: 
  • Large fridges make you fat. Studies have shown that the more food you have in the house, the less healthy you eat. By encouraging families to shop less frequently and buy in bulk, American fridges may be contributing to obesity and other health problems. 
  • Large fridges waste food. If you fill your fridge with more food than you can eat in a week, there's a good chance that some of it will go bad. It's also likely that you'll be chilling stuff that doesn't need chilling — some of which will be worse off for it. From garlic to onions to bread and coffee, there are plenty of things that last better when kept at room temperature. Even eggs are perfectly safe when not kept in the fridge, as long as they haven't been washed to remove their protective outer layer. 
  • Large fridges take up space. OK, many oversized fridges live in oversized houses, but there's no reason it has to be that way. As many Americans discover the joys of dense, urban living, they may well find themselves leaning toward smaller fridges that don't overwhelm their more modest living quarters. 
These are all good arguments, and as someone who moved from the U.K. to America, I can attest to some culture shock at the size of most U.S. appliances (my current fridge is 22 cubic feet, more than twice the size of its European counterpart).

But Nosowitz missed one core argument that might be my favorite, made so eloquently by my colleague Lloyd Alter over at TreeHugger: Smaller fridges make for better cities. By encouraging people to shop more often, smaller fridges are a useful tool for promoting vibrant, walkable neighborhoods and local retail, not big box stores you drive to twice a month. And walkable neighborhoods encourage more exercise too, so it really is a win-win situation for all. Unless you happen to make big fridges, of course.