Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth and Sun

This morning, Eldest informed me that it was Earth Day (no, really? because I’d only gotten five hundred emails from assorted companies saying, ‘EARTH DAY IS TUESDAY, SHOP EARLY AND OFTEN TO SAVE THE PLANET!’, so really, Earth Day arrived completely without warning this year) and asked if we, you know, did anything around the Den to, uh, save the Earth, or something like that?

It’s funny how much of ‘green’ stuff is…boring. Especially the stuff that has the best impact. Fluorescent bulbs? Replacing a pathetically inefficient heating/air conditioning unit with a best of breed new one? The new water heater? The front-load washer/dryer?


Reducing the amount of packaging we buy, reusing things, patching rather than replacing jeans, avid (rabid) recycling procedures, producing so little waste that we can use the smallest trash tote the city provides, using reusable containers in our packed lunches, all of that…big yawn.

Bake bread in a solar oven in the backyard, an act which saves all of thirty cents off the electric bill, using a $240 Sun Oven?


OK, I admit that I, too, find the Sun Oven to be cooooooooool. It’s a fairly new toy and is fun to use. It sets up ridiculously easily, and gets not only hotter than your average homemade type – the hottest I ever got with one of my aluminum-foil-and-plywood endeavors was well under 200 degrees, while this particular model has shot right up to 350 degrees in twenty minutes – but stays there for as long as I can keep the sunlight focused on it. It has enough room on the cooking surface for two bread pans side-by-side, or a good-sized casserole dish. Yesterday, yes, I did indeed bake two loaves of bread in roughly an hour using nothing but the Power of the Sun.

Ooooooh, aaaaaaaaah.

There is no discernable difference between the loaves I baked in the Sun Oven and those I baked in the electric one. Their taste, appearance and texture are identical. The only real difference was in baking time – the electric oven takes about 40 minutes, the Sun Oven took a full hour.

Last week, it made a wonderful ‘crockpot style’ chicken stock (allowed to simmer for five hours) and a chicken and rice casserole – it would have taken about 40 minutes in the kitchen, it took an hour and a half outside.

Eldest took her backyard-baked bread to school in a reusable sandwich box, in her lead-free insulated lunch box.

It isn’t Grand or Glorious. It is, in fact, rather like tossing a grain of sand into the scales. There you go, my weighty contribution to Saving the World. That much less energy used for cooking, and in the coming dog days of summer, to removing the heat that energy generated inside the Den.

But it’s a start, anyway. Even small steps take us that much closer to where we want to go – far closer than we’d be if we just sat on our rumps thinking about doing something.

Someday, I hope people will look back on all these machinations and say, "How cute! But of course, that was before we had Eterna-Energy packs and Carbon-B-Gone..."


MRS MJW said...

Wow...your "on the needles" sweater is absolutely friggin gorgeous! i'm jealous. you must be loaded with patience. smile.

Kris said...

I love the idea of a solar oven, but in the northern latitudes (ie Wisconsin) you would be cooking all day! ;)

Yarnhog said...

I want an Eterna-Energy pac.

When I was a child, I visited my grandparents in their tiny village on the outskirts of Jerusalem. They had a well with a hand pump to the kitchen sink, an outhouse, and a mud-brick oven in the front yard that ran off the dung from the goats my grandmother kept for milk, cheese, and meat. My grandmother dried fruit in the sun on the front porch and clothes--which she washed by hand in water drawn from the well--on a line in back. The house was built of brick with walls three feet thick to keep out the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer--no heating or air conditioning except the windows. There was no plastic and virtually no trash, since everything got reused until it literally fell apart--and everything was biodegradable.

Huh. I never realized my grandparents were environmentalists. Happy Earth Day!

Anonymous said...

My 'green' goal is to get DH to quit turning on the AC to cool this large house with poor air circulation whenever he's hot in his chosen room (sitting in the sun in a leather chair).

Science PhD Mom said...

A sun oven? I don't think it would work terribly well here in Washington in the wintertime. But it's a cool concept. I am contemplating a solar-powered water heater gizmo to replace our electric water heater when it finally dies. And we are due to replace the old and inefficient furnace. I just have to save up the money for the new one first, and cross my fingers that the old one doesn't die on us!