Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Why Small Fridges Make Good Cities

Rampant consumerism isn’t limited to clothes, electronics and other durable goods. Many American kitchens can look like doomsday shelters, with their pantries and freezers packed with enough food for weeks or months.

A few years ago, Canadian architect Donald Chong introduced a concept-kitchen called “Small Fridges Make Good Cities.” On his site, Chong asks a provocative question: “Can the choices we make in our own homes make a difference in our neighbourhoods?”

We tend to think our interiors as dissociated from our communities, but what if we saw the inner and outer spaces as inseparable? For example, a kitchen with a small fridge could have personal, community and even global impact from results like:

  • Frequent, small shopping trips. Chong wanted to “heighten the experience of the urban harvest where seasonality, once again, can resume its place in architecture and the city.” Chong is hearkening to a time when people ate with the season and went to the market frequently because food didn’t keep indefinitely via freezing and vacuum packing. Markets weren’t just food warehouses as they are now. They were important community spaces where people shared their lives.
  • Fresher food. I’ve heard, “If your food can go bad, it’s good for you. If your food won’t go bad, it’s bad for you.” Big caches of food that don’t go bad are, by their very nature, not fresh. Small fridges produce high turnover. Of course, the high turnover could be junk food, but as long as you’re at the market, do your body a favor and shop at the perimeter, where all the fresh food is.
  • More eating out. Many of our homes are isolated fortresses of eating and media consumption (TV, internet, etc.). While eating out every night does not make sense for many of us, going out of the house 2-3 times a week and engaging your community is a great way to support local economies and make a vibrant city.
  • Less space. This is pretty obvious, but food takes up real estate.
  • Less energy. Refrigerators account for around 15% of household energy expenditures. A small, Energy Star fridge like the Sub-Zero 700 BCi used in the first LifeEdited apartment, will help mitigate that number considerably.

Of course, many of us live in places where frequent shopping isn’t feasible. And you can get a small fridge and fill it with Hot Pockets or order greasy takeout every night.

But maybe you’re remodeling your kitchen. Consider a slimmer, European style fridge instead of an American double-wide. Or you’re moving into a small apartment with a small fridge. Consider getting to know your farmer’s market.

Do you have a small fridge? What are your experiences with it? How does it change your habits? We’d like to know.

Story via Treehugger and Donald Chong, Image via Designboom

  • Beth

    I literally laughed aloud when I read ‘Rampant consumerism isn’t limited to clothes, electronics and other durable goods. Many American kitchens look like doomsday shelters, their pantries and freezers packed with enough food for weeks or months’, and thenthe comment about ‘More eating out. Many of our homes are isolated fortresses of eating and media consumption (TV, internet, etc.). While eating out every night does not make sense for many of us, going out of the house 2-3 times a week and engaging your community is a great way to support local economies and make a vibrant city’.

    Because eating out is SO consumerism based and is the opposite of how I want to live.Not to mention having plent of home grown food on hand means I can make meals for shut ins and elderly, or friends neighbors who are sick or working longer hours, or friends who simply need som TLC.

    Yes, we have a big vegetable garden, and can,dehydrate and freeze the bounty. Because we like eating healthy, and dislike the idea of wasting gas going to the store or even the farmers market. And numerous studies show that families and friends who eat together every night at dinner in a home environment, tend to be healthier mind, body and spirit.

    The other reason I laughed aloud in reading the rampant consumerism comment is because your website is NOTHING but consumerism.

  • Beth, your comments sound like you do not live in a city. You likely live in a suburban subdivision or more rurally, at least enough to have “a big vegetable garden.” Much of what LifeEdited is applicable to is noticed most readily in a city, which you are not a part of. Many people prefer cities to suburbia for the simple reason that their density makes for quick and frequent engagement with other people, the culture one chooses to connect with, and seeing strangers who do not look like you.

    No one likes “wasting gas going to a store…or farmers [SIC] market” as you said. Thus living well-located in a city means you walk to your stores and farmer’s markets. Besides it’s healthier. People in suburbia are mostly house-locked and must burn gas for even the most trivial chores. You may not have noticed that there is an internet company which rates any address with a “Walk Score.” Suburbia mostly ranks poorly. Rural is worse. Try your address at http://www.walkscore.com and find out how you rank.

    Regarding your barb about LifeEdited’s site being “NOTHING but consumerism,” I detect that you misapply the word: consumerism. Merriam Webster gets it right: “CONSUMERISM, the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable; also : a preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods.”

    You likely think any talk about buying food, a meal, a tool, or a refrigerator is “consumerism.” It’s not.

    You said “…eating is SO consumerism based…” That may be true for you. For people who are fit, and who value their health, eating is not consumerism at all, but a high act bordering on sacrament.

    Most people notice the refreshing way Graham Hill identified and acted on a growing awareness towards the health of less stuff. Westeners, though their denial is strong, are fat in many ways. Even Nordstrom’s catalog features “models” who 20 years ago would have been considered morbidly obese. Their garages and kitchens are stuffed to match.

    Hill’s central tenet, is obviously re-channeling the buying of artifacts from “consumerism” to paying keen attention on why anything deserves to be in our lives. Hill calls for living lighter, living more deeply in this physical world we all must exist in and making the most enlightened choices while we’re here. In this regard, Hill and company’s LifeEdited is the OPPOSITE of consumerism.

    • thanks for the lead on “walk score.” it’s great and will be appearing on this site very soon. and yes, you seem to get the central idea of what we’re up to here: that we do buy stuff, and given that, make it the best designed, most versatile and durable stuff possible. and indeed, while this is far from exclusively an urban movement, the urban setting is more conducive to an edited lifestyle, where a home need not be a fortress of self-sufficiency, but rather a cell in a vital organism. i hazard to add this can be achieved in less dense areas like suburbs and rural areas, but sometimes the lack of imperative (access to cheap consumer goods, ample real estate) makes it a tougher sell.

  • Aline Bringmann

    Hello ! yes I have a small refregirator(under counter).
    I wish they could make one, with separate freezer ! And also make them more afordable ! I live in a “railroad appartement” with a “closet”kitchen” everything has to be small.

  • Jessie

    Being European, I have one such European style fridge. Unfortunately, I live in a household of three, and we all have totally different eating habits. I shop fresh and generally cook up batches of things for the week. Another member of the house is a total carnivore, and so keeps packets upon packets (all plastic packets, of course) of cooked meats, and lots of pots of dips and dressings that take up a ridiculous amount of space. The third member of the house keeps a lot of pre-made, shop bought snacks like one serving sizes of yoghurts. Add on top the things we all use: salad ingredients, fresh veg etc. Our ‘European size’ fridge is unfortunately bursting at the seams! 

    I’m always aiming for a slimmed-down approach to everything (no over-stuffed bathroom cabinets of un-used toiletries, no bloated CD and DVD collections that could be digitised or rented etc) but the fridge is, I’ll admit, a problem. 

    To Beth: I’m not a city dweller, but I try to live like one (especially as I might be moving to one in the next couple of years!). I lived in London for 3 years, in a tiny three bedroom house-share with other students. We had a smaller fridge than I do in my current house, and made it work. Currently, I’m lucky enough to grow veg in the garden, but British allotments aren’t THAT productive year-round, so we buy in more shop-bought produce until the garden gets going. 

    You don’t have to be in a city to apply these principals – they save you money and stress no matter where you live. 

  • Anita

    I suppose this article should state clearly that much of it applies to those who live in an urban environment with easy access to stores and markets. It does NOT apply to those who live in the burbs or rual areas, and as well not to those who live in underserved urban areas where they must travel long distances to obtain food that is other than chips or soda. That said, it is essentially promoting a European way of buying food; often bought daily at markets or stores that sell one type of item only such as fish or bread or fruit and veg. So yes, if I had access to that sort of shopping, perhaps I would do that. It also unfortunately is geared to those who are more affluent, prmoting eating out several times a week. Eating out is a rare treat for me and not a regular occurence. And I’m sure the author is envisioning eating at locally owned establsihments that serve healthy food and not at the local KFC!

    I do however believe that it is prudent to have ample stores of food around; one never knows when something will prevent one from shopping or delay deliveries to the market and it is a good thing to know where your next meal is coming from. As well, it’s great to be able to easily feed unexpected company. One has to create a balance however between stocking up on enough fresh foods such that they will be used before they go bad versus cramming stuff into the fridge and losing most of it to the compost pile.

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  • Dan Beasley

    This is an interesting article. I can see the pros and cons to small versus large fridges to influence populations to eat healthier, fresher, and have a smaller carbon footprint. Honestly though, with two or three kids and limited time having a chest freezer or other standalone freezer is so clutch for storing food and cooking meals in advance for the week. I just don’t have time to hit the grocery store every evening. Here’s a post in my blog about how I prep food for my small family:

    http://chestfreezerportal.com/2017/01/20/frozen-food-recipes-taste-great/