Who knew that apples make other fruit go ripe, but keep potatoes cold longer and that onions stay more fresh standing upright? Very inspiring thoughts on food and traditional knowledge.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
The 10% Fridge: An Interview with Roger Stahl on living with a chest fridge in Georgia, United States
What's a chest fridge and why did you oust your normal fridge?
Ever since that scene in Requiem for a Dream where the fridge attacks the old woman, it has seemed rather menacing to me... We switched to a chest fridge, which is about halfway there to opting out of a fridge. A chest fridge is a chest freezer that has been modified with an external thermostat to stay at fridge temperature (this is extremely easy to do). Because of the top-opening design and lots more insulation, it's about 10 times more efficient than even the most eco-friendly fridge on the market. The cold air doesn't fall right out every time you open the door.
Eureka, cold air sinks! Its a wonder that this wasn't taken into account before. Do you have any observations about what living without a conventional fridge is like? Why did you decide you didn't need it?
I noticed that as I eat healthier, there is less in the fridge and more on the shelf. It occurred to me that the kinds of things that desperately need refrigeration are things like meat and milk. My spouse and I have made the choice to eliminate animals and their excretions from our diet. This leaves the fridge for condiments, leftovers, and greens. A 7 sq. ft. chest fridge does the trick nicely.
What is living with just a chest fridge like?
I thought it would involve some kind of sacrifice, but it hasn't. Yes, you do bend over to get your cabbage, and there is generally some condensation on the bottom of the fridge, but that's where the differences end. Aesthetically, I like it very much. It fits where our other fridge went in the kitchen, and looks like a nice clean counter top. It has freed up some wall space for more cabinets or shelves. We haven't decided what to put there. Maybe a portrait of George W. Bush.
(laughing) Indeed - letting the hot air rise away from the veggies below! Why did you choose the freezer/chest fridge? Can you say what makes it special?
It's an experiment in saving money and electricity. I am also experimenting with a low-energy lifestyle that might allow us to someday to solar power the house.
That's a pretty inspiring goal. You have more wall space, any other changes to your home?
Yes. It has probably changed the soundscape the most. The compressor turns on very rarely - maybe for about a minute every hour or two. So there's a lot less white noise. Visually, it makes the kitchen look more spacious as well. When people come over, it often sparks conversation about important issues.
Yes, experimenting with low energy living is inspiring for people, a conversation starter and a way to come together. Are you saving anything by way of energy?
I don't have anything like a Kill-o-Watt meter hooked up to it, so I can't give you hard numbers. Others have and estimate that it cuts consumption about 90%.
From the power bill, it looks like it's knocking maybe $10-20 off per month. The chest fridge cost about $US170, so it won't be long before I recoup that.
Want to talk about the ecology of this?
Yes. If you are making your way to a fridgeless life, this is a good step along the way. The refrigerator is a serious energy hog. It generally uses more than any other appliance (big screen TVs, computers, and heating and cooling units are not far behind). Addressing the fridge issue is a concrete step that an individual can take toward developing a culture of sustainability. Changing to a chest fridge is not going to save the world by itself, but all change is incremental. It's also important that these changes have "live demonstrations." People need to see it in action.
I like your "live demonstration" idea - we can show right now, to anyone who is touched by us that living more ecologically is not so radical. How have you adapted in the way that you live and prepare food?
No. I think anyone could make this switch. People who eat a lot of refrigerator food (meat, dairy, eggs) might find they need more space. I find it simply makes for a cleaner and more convenient kitchen to live vegan, and it requires a smaller fridge.
Has this choice gotten you more in touch with the weather?
No. Like I said, I have not sacrificed anything or really changed my lifestyle one iota. So I have not had to reacquaint myself with the weather. I do have this idea, however, of building a fridge that slides in and out of the house through a window or wall panel. The compressor generates heat. In colder weather, why not slide the fridge compartment outside (i.e. reach "through the wall" to get food), and why not keep the compressor inside to capture heat when it does turn on (rarely)? In hotter weather, why not reverse this: keep the cool box inside and the hot compressor outside? It seems like there's a good way to have the fridge - if you're going to have it - contribute to the home's air conditioning. Get on this, somebody!
Yes! Its ironic because of course in old homes, there used to be the "milk box" that protruded from the kitchen outside, so that there could accessible cold storage. There are some people living on the islands in Vancouver who bury old fridges in the soil outside, with the door up. An old fridge or freezer becomes a completely secure mouse proof cellar in the winter. There are so many possibilities for utilizing, rather than ignoring the seasons.
This may seem like a long shot, but as someone writes about the military and war, do you see a link between living more simply and changing our world?
Not a long shot at all. Our wars these days are resource wars. Everyone recognizes this now, even the people who told me in 2003 that Iraq was not a "war for oil."
But there are unconventional resource wars being fought on our own soil. Large swaths of the Appalachians are being absolutely devastated for coal and our electricity. These are the most biodiverse places in the US, now called "sacrifice zones" in energy policy documents. The people who live there suffer. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which is bringing on the current revolution in domestic natural gas production, is devastating underground water supplies from Pennsylvania to Colorado. Canada has the tar sands. All of these might as well be war zones, and by using vast amounts of electricity, we are essentially living the lives of war profiteers. We all need to ask ourselves whether we want to contribute to it. The system offers us many ways to deny our own complicity, but sooner or later the chickens come home to roost.
Yes, and we see them roosting on our mountains and forests, and fellow citizens living on this land as we speak... Thanks for taking time to talk about ending the war on the earth and people, even in our kitchen.
Roger Stahl is a filmmaker, writer, and scholar whose works include the book Militainment Inc: War, Media, and Popular Culture, his most recent film is Returning Fire: Interventions in Video Game Culture, and he has numerous articles and publications. To learn more, go here: http://rogerstahl.info/
Chest Fridges and Energy Consumption:
Mountain Top Removal, (Sacrifice Zones):