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Posted by Tony Listi on December 5, 2007

Divorce exacts a serious toll on the environment by boosting the energy and water consumption of those who used to live together, according an article published in the National Academy of Sciences by Jianguo Liu and Eunice Yu, both Michigan State University researchers.Other findings:

In 2005, divorced American households used between 42 and 61 percent more resources per person than before they separated, spending 46 percent more per person on electricity and 56 percent more on water.
If the divorced couples had stayed together in 2005, the United States would have saved 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water in that year alone.
Moreover, the divorced households they surveyed used up more space, occupying between 33 and 95 percent more rooms per person than in married households.
“Hopefully this will inform people about the environmental impact of divorce,” Liu says. “For a long time we’ve blamed industries for environmental problems. One thing we’ve ignored is the household.”

But actually doing something about the problem is different. Lester Brown, president of the D.C.-based Earth Policy Institute, said the study’s finding made sense, but it is hard to craft public policies to address the problem of the increasing number of households in the United States and elsewhere. He noted that in many countries, such as Japan, women are choosing to marry later or not marry at all, which also expands the number of people living alone.

Source: Juliet Eilperin, “Divorce Found to Harm The Environment With Higher Energy, Water Use,” Washington Post, December 4, 2007.

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