Reflections on Living Without a Fridge


Hometead House In Colombia

I live in a quilted home of brick walls, mosquito screens, windowless spaces, and a palm leaf roof in northeast Colombia. You may see an iguana munching a mango on my porch. Once you transcend the sheer weirdness and come inside, you may realize something else strange: I have no refrigerator.

I have been living without a fridge (freezer and air conditioning) for six months now. This is even funkier because my house leans on a sub-tropical mountain–essentially the opposite of the cool climates conducive to natural refrigeration.

Why did I do this? First, most 24-hour refrigerators use an enormous amount of electricity, draining power and dollars.

Second, the environmental impact: most use coolants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping greenhouse emissions and contributing to global warming.  Refrigeration essentially enables our insane global food system, allowing fruits in southern Mexico to unnaturally land in the northern U.S., instead of relying on locally grown produce. Packaged food is an epidemic, one that would be significantly less possible without conventional refrigeration. Third, I wanted to experience daily life more like my ancestors.  And finally, I just wanted to see what would happen!

Using a Zeer Pot for Simple Refrigeration

Because of the tropical climate, I was unable to implement more traditional refrigeration alternatives like a root cellar, cold room, or ice house. My first attempt at alternative refrigeration was a Zeer Pot. An ingeniously simple system with pan-cultural roots invented by a rural Nigerian to keep food cooler in hot climates.

8/23/2019 9:55:47 AM

Very interesting to read of your experiences Chris. I live in the Gulf Coast area of the US (hot and humid) and often wonder how I would manage were we to have an extended power outage.

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