Between microwave hacks, TV dinners, and reheating day-old pizza, these appliances have been a pivotal part of the American dream since the ‘70s. But, like many other inventions that make our lives easier, the microwave contributes to climate change in a big way. The small ovens are responsible for 7.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the EU alone, according to a recent scientific evaluation.
That means that microwaves are emitting the same amount of carbon dioxide as 6.8 million cars. Microwaves haven’t been a central focus for environmental activism groups or global warming fighters — some experts believe this could be because the pollution caused by microwaves is generated at a faraway power plant instead of in your driveway. You can see the exhaust coming from your car. But your microwave is a clandestine killer.
Experts estimate that the manufacturing process alone contributes roughly 20 percent of a microwave’s negative environmental impact, and the appliances’ decreasing lifespans create waste disposal problems as well. But the majority of the impact comes from day-to-day electricity use.
One problem might be that people aren’t educated enough on how to use their microwave the right way. There are multiple ways you can use your oven differently to cut back on the damage.
For instance, you can space your food out on your plate so it requires less cook time to heat through. You can try switching to round containers to stow away your food — they cook food faster than ones that are square.
Though microwaves improve efficiency in many applications, the study is a reminder that almost all actions we take in daily life have some impact on the environment. Fortunately, the same researchers also found that new EU regulations on microwave manufacture could reduce the environmental impact by up to 9 percent by 2020, and EU initiatives to improve alternative energy sources will reduce the damage even further.
So don’t give up on home cooking just yet —preparing insanely easy weeknight dinners with your own appliances is still a better choice than taking your car through the drive-thru.