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Home > Feature Articles > Sustainable Development Best Practices for Community Sustainability

Single Person Households Are Hard on the Planet, People and the Pocketbook

Per capita, divorced households use 46% more electricity and 56% more water than married households.

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City heat island from greenhouse gas and global climate change It makes sense that multiple households use more resources. And when you couple (no pun intended) that common sense statement with the fact that buildings create 40% of the emissions that cause climate makes sense that fewer households per family might be a good thing. All things considered. "Per capita, divorced households use 46% more electricity and 56% more water than married households. As for physical space, the study reported that the average divorced household in the U.S. offers a sprawling 3.7 rooms per person, while married people and their kin must make do with 2.5 rooms per person."

This is the gist of a study published December 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Lead author Jianguo Liu compared divorced households (those headed by a divorced adult) with married households, and found that the splintering effect of divorce results in fewer people living under one roof -- and often one person living alone in a house.

Of course, the real news here isn't that divorce is bad for the environment but that living with other people, whether or not they happen to be our spouse and/or offspring, is good for the planet.

The problem is, more Americans live by themselves than ever before (according to Census figures, 26% of U.S. households in 2005 consisted of one person, compared with 17% in 1970), and we're starting to see it as a choice we're all entitled to.

Living alone is synonymous with being a grown-up, being independent, having choices...need I go on?

Living alone (or almost alone) is seen as the preferred state for young adults, divorcees, and even retirees and widows.

And Americans are seen as the loneliest, most violent, most medicated people on the planet. I wonder why.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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