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Divorce’s green toll

<p>If you thought divorce wreaked havoc on your family life, your children and your finances, now you can add another victim to the list — the environment.</p>

Environment suffers when couples split up, new study finds


If you thought divorce wreaked havoc on your family life, your children and your finances, now you can add another victim to the list — the environment.





A new scientific study deduces divorce pollutes the environment because it splits households in two, doubling the demand for electricity and even water.





“More households mean more houses,” said Jianguo Liu, professor of fisheries and wildlife ecology and systems modelling at Michigan State University, who co-authored the report published in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “To build more houses, you need more land, more construction material and more energy.”





To put it simply, Liu said, four people living under one roof will share light, heat, air conditioning and a humming fridge. One person living alone needs all those things, too.





The study analyzed data from 12 countries, including Cambodia and Greece, but not Canada. While no country had the U.S. rate of 14.8 per cent divorced households, all showed a climbing number — a trend that presents a “global challenge,” according to Liu, who began studying the issue while researching the impact of humans on a panda reserve in China.





“If people really can’t get along and have to get divorced, maybe they could consider getting remarried with somebody else, or staying together with somebody they like — their relatives, or whatever,” said Liu. “There are some potential solutions to this problem.”





Separation, prolonged singledom and empty-nesters present the same environmental challenges, Liu admitted. But they won’t have wasted electricity and consumer goods on a big wedding.





“When people get divorced, they toss out a lot of trash,” added Liu, whose next study is on the increased waste divorced households send to landfill, and their carbon emissions.















Cost of solitude



  • In the United States alone, divorced households required an extra 38.5 million rooms in 2005, costing the country an additional 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity — more than Ontario households use in a year, the report states.



  • They also used an extra 627 billion gallons of water.



 
 
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