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Buying a new refrigerator is one of those purchases that no adult wants to make. But, unless you live in Antarctica where you can store food outside, you’ll probably have to replace your fridge every 13 years or so. When yours finally gives out, do Mother Earth a favor and start looking into eco-friendly fridges. This year, there are even more designs to choose from, so you’ll never have to compromise style for efficiency.
What Makes a Fridge Eco-Friendly?
Did you know that your water heater can use 340% more energy than your fridge? In a world where electricity is the main contributor of carbon emissions, you’d think someone would have focused on making water heaters and other fixtures more energy-efficient by now.
Meanwhile, the refrigerator and freezer manufacturing industry would still have you believe that their energy-efficient refrigerators are the definition of eco-friendly. At the same time, they continue to use materials and designs that devastate the environment.
If you’re eyeing your Energy-Star-approved fridge suspiciously now, you’re not alone. Dozens of consumers are realizing their preferred brand should do more for the environment than they claim to be doing, starting with the following:
While cutting electricity use can help offset carbon emissions, using eco-friendly refrigerants can make a more meaningful impact. That’s because many manufacturers still use hydrofluorocarbons to keep things cool. These chemicals are 1,000 to 9,000 times more potent than CO2 in terms of climate impact. Thus, purchasing a fridge free of HFCs may be kinder to the environment than buying one that uses moderately less energy.
The more often you need to repair or replace your fridge, the more damage you’ll do to the environment. Think about it. Whenever you replace a component, you toss the old one and buy another, thereby doubling your consumption and waste. Replacing your fridge mimics this same process on a much larger scale, which releases even more carbon and HFCs into the atmosphere.
Therefore, it’s important to choose a high-quality refrigerator that’s reliable and won’t break down on you. Because through-the-door water and ice dispensers are frequently problematic, models without this feature are often more durable and, therefore, more eco-friendly.
Of course, you want to get the best bang for your buck when it comes to space. However, choosing a smaller model that consumes less energy and requires fewer materials may be the eco-friendliest option. Sure, you won’t have as much room, but a smaller carbon footprint might be worth a compromise. Plus, if you live alone or only have one other mouth to feed, you can probably get by with a shorter, thinner fridge.
If you buy a Thanksgiving turkey and can’t reconfigure your fridge to make it fit, you might have to buy a cooler or a minifridge to preserve the bird. The same goes for watermelons, hams and other large grocery items. In this case, you’ll waste more energy and materials purchasing another cooler than you would be buying an adaptable fridge.
Look for fridges that offer a more flexible layout, even if that means they feature more plastic drawers, bins and compartments. If you can reconfigure them to fit large dishes and bulk buys, you may have a winner.
Choosing the Friendliest Fridge
Choosing the best of the best eco-friendly fridges may be more complicated than you thought, but the good news is there are green options out there. Better yet, more brands are developing new materials and sustainable alternatives, so there’ll likely be even more options to choose from when it finally comes time to buy a new fridge.
Today, however, you can choose from the following, which have some or all of the eco-friendly features above.
1. Liebherr Monolith MRB3000
Germany’s Liebherr has been a world leader in the transition from away from HFCs ever since they converted their appliances to HCFC and CFC-free refrigerants nearly two decades ago. Liebherr was also among the first manufacturers to restrict the use of hazardous substances during production. Instead, the brand uses environmentally-friendly powder coatings and solvent-free sheet metals.
Their Monolith MRB3000 factors in all of the above and is smaller than your typical 20 to 25 cubic foot fridge. Plus, all of its plastic components feature labels to ensure easy and optimum recycling if you must replace anything. An internal water dispenser, BioFresh preservation system and high adaptability make these eco-friendly fridges one of the most earth-conscious choices you can make for your home.
2. Smeg 24-Inch 50’s Style
If you fancy a retro aesthetic and green living you’re going to love Smeg’s 50’s Style refrigerator. This cute little appliance comes in a variety of bright colors and is one of the incredibly eco-friendly fridges on the market. Like Liebherr, Smeg fully complies with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances directive by restricting the use of hazardous substances. When you replace your Smeg fridge, be sure to recycle the steel, glass, aluminum and brass components to further increase this model’s sustainability factor.
3. Samsung RF28T5101SR
This energy-efficient french-door fridge from Samsung checks most boxes for most people. It comes in stainless steel, black and white and fits a standard 26-inch spot. Last year, it even fulfilled the eco-friendly refrigerant specification by replacing harmful chemicals with iso-butane. While it may be on the larger end of the standard fridge, the extra space enhances the compressor’s efficiency to reduce energy consumption. The shelving is adjustable and the water dispenser is inside, too, which only makes it greener.
4. GE GTE18GTHWW
If you’re looking for something slightly larger, this 28-inch GE will store more food without compromising the planet’s health. Like Samsung’s 26-inch model, this brand relies on climate-friendly iso-butane to refrigerate the interior. It’s also energy star compliant and features removable door gaskets, adjustable shelves and fresh food compartments for maximum adaptability. Plus, it’s the cheapest option on this list, making it a great choice for budget-conscious shoppers who love a good deal.
5. Sub-Zero BI-30UG
Got cash to blow? Spend it well by purchasing one of the Sub-Zero BI-30UG eco-friendly fridges. At just 30 inches wide, this fridge is small and compact, offering just over 13 cubic feet of interior space. The water and ice dispenser are located inside and separate storage compartments preserve food longer to minimize waste. Each fridge undergoes rigorous testing to maximize longevity, with many lasting 20 years or longer. Thus, you’ll be less likely to repair or replace it before then.
6. Oceania by Tez Patel
What if you could replace HFCs with magnetic refrigeration and conserve energy with four giant see-through drawers? If it sounds like a dream, that’s because it is — at least for now. This concept fridge is the work of designer and innovator Tez Patel who relies on water, ceramic materials and thermoelectric cooling to keep food cold. LED lights and transparent drawers also aid browsing so you don’t have to open the fridge and promptly re-chill the interior.
Fridges of the Future
While you may not be able to purchase the Oceania just yet, this concept fridge — and others like it — gives many eco-conscious consumers hope.
As the Earth grows warmer, innovators will continue searching for more sustainable solutions to build the fridges of the future. In the coming years, prepare to see solar power, odor-free gel and other non-electric inventions rule the refrigeration scene. With many of these concepts already in the works, odds are you won’t have to worry about whether a fridge is eco-friendly or not for much longer.