A really inconvenient truth: divorce increases the environmental footprint of families [...] A novel study that links divorce with the environment shows that a global trend of soaring divorce rates has created more households with fewer people, that, in turn, take up more space and gobble up more energy and water. [...] A remedy to counter the statistics: Fall back in love. Cohabitation means less urban sprawl and softens the environmental hit. [...]
Housing units, even if they have few people in them, require resources to construct them and the units take up space and require fuel to heat and cool them. Within a unit, a refrigerator uses roughly the same amount of energy whether it belongs to a family of four or a family of two. [...]
In the United States alone in 2005, divorced households used 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water that could have been saved had household size remained the same as that of married households. Thirty-eight million extra rooms were needed with associated costs for heating and lighting. [...]
To track what happens when divorced people returned to married life, the study compared married households with households that had weathered marriage, divorce and remarriage. The results: The environmental footprint shrunk back to that of consistently married households. [...]
The research, Liu said, shows that environmental policy is more complex than one single solution. Governments across the world may need to start factoring in divorce when examining environmental policy, Liu said.
"Solutions are beyond a single idea," Liu said. "Consider the production of biofuel. Biofuel is made from plants, which also require water and space. We're showing divorce has significant competition for that water and space. On the other hand, more divorce demands more energy. This creates a challenging dilemma and requires more creative solutions."