Want to Go 'Green'? Stay Married

The divorced have more negative impact on environment than marrieds, study says.

ByABC News
December 3, 2007, 2:09 PM

Dec. 3, 2007 — -- Environmentalists who are thinking of getting a divorce may want to reconsider, a new study at Michigan State University finds.

Households in which a divorce occurs have a greater negative impact on the environment in terms of efficient use of resources than the households of married couples, according to research that will be published this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The reason is simple it's all about efficiency, says Jianguo Liu, lead author of the study who has the Rachel Carson chair in ecological sustainability at the university's department of fisheries and wildlife.

"In the divorced households, the number of people is smaller than in married households," Liu told ABCNEWS.com. "The resource efficiency used per person is much lower than in married households."

For example, the amount of heat used in a house is the same whether one or four people live there; the fewer people who occupy the space, the more energy is wasted.

"Whether you have four or two people, you still use the same amount of heat, and whether you have two people or 10 people, the light is on," Liu said.

Similarly, because divorced households have fewer people, they have more rooms per person and are using their living space less efficiently. This inefficiency may also lead to an increase in generating greenhouse gases, the study concludes.

To come up with their findings, Liu and postdoctoral associate Eunice Yu examined data from 12 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Ecuador, Kenya, Mexico and Spain.

In the United States, they found that divorced households spent 46 percent more per capita on electricity and 56 percent more on water than married households did.

According to the study, if divorced households could have the same resource efficiency as their married counterparts, they would need 38 million fewer rooms, use 73 billion fewer kilowatt hours of electricity and 627 billion gallons of water in 2005 alone.