Divorce is a waste

Staying together for the kids is one thing. But staying together for the environment?

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that climbing global rates of divorce pose environmental problems: One household becomes two, for starters.

The gist is that married people live together and therefore share energy usage, a home, a humming fridge, sometimes a car, and they generally use space more efficiently than singles. The researchers, Jianguo Liu and Eunice Yu, obtained data from 12 countries. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports: “If divorced households had combined to have the same average household size as married households, there could have been 7.4 million fewer households in these countries.”

Calling divorce a “resource inefficient lifestyle,” the researchers developed a somewhat frustrating solution: Fall back in love. (Or maybe just get a roommate.)

Other findings come down to fewer people using more rooms and spending more money: The average number of people in a divorced home was 27 to 41 percent smaller than in married households, while there were 33 to 95 percent more rooms per person in a divorced household. Americans in divorced households spent 46 to 56 percent more on utilities than their married counterparts.

“Divorced households in the U.S. could have saved more than 38 million rooms, 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water in 2005 alone if their resource-use efficiency had been comparable to married households,” the report said.

U.S. divorced couples also used 42 to 61 percent more resources per person than they did when married.

Remarriage, the researchers said, brings the home size and resources back to levels similar to married households.

The researchers acknowledged that the loss of multiple generations living in one home and more people staying single longer also contributes to more households with fewer people.

Liu told Reuters news agency that the size of the household was the important factor, not necessarily the marriage status: “If you really want to get divorced, you know that two people cannot stay together, you don’t want to stay together forever, then maybe you remarry with somebody else, or live together with somebody else you like.”