Divorce hurts the planet

Rising divorce levels are having a detrimental effect on the environment, according to a Michigan State University study reported by New Scientist.

The basic problem is that people move into separate houses when they split, meaning they occupy more space, burn more energy, and consume more water than they did when they lived in the same household.

“Divorced households are smaller than married households, but consume more land, water, and energy per person than married households,” university researcher Jianguo Liu told New Scientist.

The study estimates that in the US alone, 2373.45 billion litres of water, the use of 38 million rooms and 734 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, would have been saved in 2005 alone if there had been no divorces.

In the same year, divorced households spent 46% more on electricity and 56% more on water per person than if they had stayed married. And following a split, US households consumed 42% to 61% more resources per person than while married.

Of course, it’s entirely another matter as to what we can do about it – the researchers urge couples to think about the environmental impact of divorce before splitting up, but then the point could also be made that people going through a marriage break up would generally have other things on their mind.

Perhaps the upshot of the study comes back to a more basic point – that all of us, married or not, need to think about how much we consume.


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