If you browse other minimalist or zero waste blogs, you might have come across photos that look like this:
This is the fridge of a fellow zero waste advocate, the gal behind Trash Is for Tossers. It looks very clean and glamorously sparse, right? I mean, look at that tomato, avocado, and lemon so perfectly lined up. It’s a beautiful thing, this fridge.
It’s not very zero waste, though. Fridges are not designed to be that empty. From The Straight Dope:
Every time you open the door to the refrigerator, you let out cold air and let in warm air–and when you shut the door, all that warm air you let in has to be cooled down. The more air space in the fridge, the more cold air that can be swapped with warm air from the kitchen. More warm air = more cooling required = higher fridge juice consumption = lighter wallet.
You don’t want to cram in so much stuff that chilled air can’t circulate; parts of the fridge will take longer to cool down then and the refrigeration unit will just have to work harder. But in general, yeah, keep that baby full. Some utilities recommend keeping gallon jugs of water in the fridge to fill up empty space, and ice bags in the freezer too.
The jury is still out on just how much putting jugs of water in there helps, though with municipal and state energy councils and the like often being the biggest proponent of this practice, I wager that there’s definitely something to it. (Especially if you can get the water cold to begin with so that the fridge doesn’t have to work to cool it.) It’s a silly proposition for most, especially considering that the #1 energy wasting thing about refrigerators is that fact that folks leave the door open for longer than absolutely positively necessary.
But zero wasters aren’t most folks, are we?
The energy lost from lack of thermal mass in a glamorously empty fridge should be significant enough for us to care, especially if we’re talking about “saving energy” by using a hairdryer for 5 fewer minutes every week.