Eco cooking, low-tech recipe for solar ovens

Neves (Finisterre), report

Don’t expect, when visiting a DIY workshop, to hear the chirping of birds. However, such is the case at Atelier Z. In this old farmhouse surrounded by oak trees, the sound of drilling mingles with the rustle of breasts, and the smell of wet grass with the pungent smell of plywood boards. The venue hosts courses in carpentry, tailoring, and soap making throughout the year. For this first edition of the Festival low techRunning through Sunday, July 3, solar cooking is in the spotlight.

In the middle of the shed overlooking the garden, Vincent Bourget, a volunteer coach from the Inti Association, puts the panels together. You have to punch them in the most vertical way possible »The engineer explains to the fifteen trainees around him. Everyone came to learn how to make a solar dryer – a kind of wooden rack on which, using sunlight, you can dry fruits, vegetables or herbs in order to keep them for several months. Once the demonstration is over, everyone returns to their work table. The workshop is transformed into a decimal nest where we sand, drill and hammer all over the place.

With this solar oven for apple cake takes three hours. © Jay Beechard/Reporter

Cooking specialist low tech – We’re calling low tech Systems, products and services that have little environmental impact, but are also useful and accessible to anyone – Vincent Bourget decided to become a coach with conviction. These are the technologies that should be available to everyone », do you think. According to a 2021 report by the Environmental Transformation Agency (Ademe), cooking is one of the six most energy-intensive uses in French homes (behind air and water heating, linked to cooling, AV and laundry). Electric kitchen appliances represent an average of 6 % of French households’ electricity consumption – but this share could rise to 48 % in extreme cases. Calculation by Low-tech Lab makes this data palpable: It would take three days and eight hours for the pedal to produce the amount of energy needed to cook a roast chicken. Gas stoves emit methane and nitrogen oxides, which are harmful to the climate and health. According to a study conducted by Stanford University in the United States, 40 million gas stoves pollute up to 500,000 gasoline cars.

Even if the temperature is -5 degrees Celsius, it gets hot »

However, a clean, direct, and energy-free source is available: the sun. Two Cooking Appliances low tech, solar oven and dryer, makes it possible to pick it up. In the first case, the mirrors focus the sun’s rays inside a bowl, causing it to rise in temperature (as when using a magnifying glass to burn dead leaves). The temperature can rise up to 150°C. In the second, a reflector and a black plate are used to heat the air inside a wooden box. The circulation of this hot air makes it possible to dry food. The outside temperature doesn’t have to be high for these techniques to work. Only sunlight is important. Even if the temperature is -5 degrees Celsius, it gets hot »says Nicholas Poisson, Inti’s volunteer secretary. These were natural phenomena I forgot, because you can press a button »Quentin Matthews, from Low-tech Lab explains. But they work very well. »

Twelve dryers were built in two days: six in the hybrid version at €280 and six in the solar version at €250. © Jay Beechard/Reporter

It is very satisfying to regain autonomy »

With a drawback: difficult, when you live in the shade of a building, to prepare dinner thanks to the sun’s rays. Cooking food this way takes longer. For apple cake, it takes three hours. But he killed !exclaims Nicholas Poisson. The apples are softer, the dough is more crunchy, and cooking at a lower temperature helps retain nutrients better. » The solar oven and dryer also require a clear sky. It is necessary to rely on other tools in sober techniques, such as economical wood stoves (or rocket stove ») for cooking in bad weather. It’s another organization to cook with the sunVincent Bourget admits. But restoring autonomy is very satisfying. » This practice allows him stay optimistic » : When I see the end of the oil, the cost of the material increases…By doing this, I feel in control. »

Training offered by the association for a fee – you have to pay between 100 and 250 euros for the two-day course. However, plans for these devices are available online. It’s a soul Low tech, Vincent Bourget insists. They should be made so that anyone can make them with simple tools. »

The engineer sees the approach as a tool for liberation. We buy more and more complex devices, but have less and less ability to repair them ourselves, He said. We have become dependent on a complete network of manufacturers and repairers. » For many trainees, this is also a way to move toward more sobriety. Previously, I had an electric dryer, Claire, 55, says. It bothered me wasting energy when it was sunny. »

When you build your own things, you adapt them to your needs Julie says. © Jay Beechard/Reporter

In a corner of the shed, Julie scrapes the walls of her futuristic dryer with sandpaper. Sawdust flying under his hand. When you build your own things, you adapt them to your needs, » Witness the girl who plan stuff » since childhood. It avoids buying bulky things full of options that you won’t use, but that require a lot of resources to do. » The reallocation of technology is in her opinion very rewarding ». You are no longer satisfied with seeing the surface of things, you understand their depth. You surround yourself with things that have a real existence. Do you remember who you made them with, why they have a scratch… When they come out of the factory, they don’t have personality »she is smiling.

Cutter in hand, neighbor Christina on the workbench, cutting through obstacles with a smile. It was building a solar dryer old dream » for the former Executive Assistant. Thanks to the dryer, she hopes to save the excess fruit the trees in her garden produce from rotting. I am so happy to be here »repeats in a playful tone the ’50s, all dressed in raspberries. Modern society made us think that everything would be easier, but it emptied us of our creative core. I have the impression that I am becoming a child again with imagination and the desire to create things. »

All around her, interns move from one workbench to another. Those who finish early extend a helping hand to others. Don’t force too much »More experienced beginners are uncomfortable with a workout. Go ahead, there you can go without fear. » This support is good »Christina breathes. Patching requires exchanges, Julie abounds. It recreates the societies we want to live in. » After three hours of screwing, cutting and polishing, the desiccants begin to crystallize. Indeed, some complicit laughter escapes between the hammer blows.

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