J500 Media and the Environment

affordable snacks, but affordable energy? by jessicasb

It’s 10 p.m. You’re hungry and don’t plan on going home for a few hours. Your stomach is growling and your options are low.

Should I spend $1 on those overpriced chips? Should I just starve myself until I get home? But I’m hungry. It’s not so bad, right? — just one package of donuts or a bottle of Diet Coke.

I never thought I would have this conversation with myself as often as I do. But schedules, and eating habits, change.

Vending machines are the epitome of consumer-demanded expediency. Soda machines are collectors’ items and symbols of “the good ol’ days.”

But vending machines typically sell high-fat food at the cost of wasting energy to run large machines. Lighting and refrigeration are the two costliest aspects of vending machines.

Beverage vending machines can use as much as 8 kWh of energy per day, or 2,920 kWh of energy per year. Compare this with a refrigerator, which (if made after 2001) uses only 500 kWh of energy per year.

How we can improve? For starters, federal agencies are required to buy Energy Star-qualified products for their buildings. Although some vending machines are still outdated, the best available beverage vending machines use 4.2 kWh of energy per day, or 1,530 kWh of energy per year. Companies can move to more Energy Star-qualified vending machines to use less energy.

But while they are there, the simplicity and cheap prices of vending machines make them tempting, especially when there is no fresh food for sale in the vicinity.

To resist my urge to eat so many vending machine snacks, I take other steps: I keep fruit with me to eat as a snack if I get hungry, and I even keep a mug and tea bags at my University’s newsroom, where I often spend those late, stomach-growling nights.

Fresh snacks and drinks are just a lot more refreshing than vending machine food, too.

And a bonus to avoiding vending machines: I don’t have to worry about finding an uncrumpled dollar in my wallet in exchange for something to eat.

— Jessica Sain-Baird

Thanks to midorisyu and Dan4th on Flickr for the images.


5 Comments so far
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It’s amazing that soda machines use almost three times the amount of energy used by a refrigerator. I try to bring my own snacks to campus to avoid the cost, both calories and cash, of feeding the vending machines.

Comment by mackenzies09

I knew vending machines were a drain on electricity.. but I didn’t know how much! In my Capstone Project class there is a group researching energy use on campus in order to make recommendations to reduce. I’m going to find out what they are suggesting KU do about all vending machines on campus and just how many there are. (I’m sure the number will be shocking.)

Comment by christinaw09

Keep me updated! I tried to find the number of vending machines on campus but couldn’t figure it out. It seems as if Energy Star vending machines are the most eco-friendly option at this point, if we absolutely have to have as many vending machines on campus as we do.

Comment by jessicasb

One way that vending machines are “improving” is that you don’t need to find an uncrumpled up dollar. Some vending machines, including the one near the newsroom, you can use a credit/debit card to get your soda. I think this technology is going backwards.

Comment by tylerw09

I also think that vending machines are environmental and health hazards for other reasons. One is the food they offer– it’s terrible for you! In some places (here she goes citing Europe again), you can get healthier snacks like fresh fruit and yoghurt from vending machines.

Another problem with vending machines is the gross amount of packaging that the food is wrapped up in. Another bonus of bringing your own snacks– aside from health, economy, and energy saving– is that you can use your own containers.

Comment by brennad87

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