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For most of us, it’s hard to imagine life without refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines. But — like so many of the tools we take for granted in 21st-century America (smartphones, anyone?) — household appliances, like almost all now-ubiquitous durable goods, require energy, labor, and raw materials to produce and operate. If climate change is to be adequately addressed, the manufacturers of these undeniably nifty products must always keep sustainability as a top priority.

Ron Voglewede, director of global sustainability at appliance manufacturer Whirlpool Corporation, puts it like this: “You can’t separate our products from the society in which they operate.”

Consumers have a limited amount of control over the environmental impact of their household appliances. Sure, you can dispose of them in a responsible manner when they break down. Proper disposal of an old refrigerator not only saves space in the landfill, it minimizes the release of substances that contribute to ozone depletion and climate change, as well as the release of mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

You can also buy more efficient machines to replace the ones you’re di... Read more

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