From the zine How to have an amazingly adventurous life for zero dollars a day.

You can make your own refrigerator for free, from stuff that you find in the rubbish, and it doesn’t need any electricity to run, just water.  It’s called a zeer pot, or a pot-in-pot refrigerator.  And it really works!  All you need is two clay pots, some sand, and a way to plug the hole in the base of the pot.

Here’s how to make it:

Get two terracotta pots, one needs to fit inside the other with about 1cm gap between.  They could be the same size with one slightly raised.  They need to be unglazed, unsealed terracotta, as the cooling happens by evaporation through the porous clay.  Pots can sometimes be found in hard rubbish, or by asking around.  If you’re really keen you could get hold of some clay and make them yourself.  Or if you’re not, try secondhand from a garage sale, flea market, salvage yard or tip shop.  They’re about $10 each from hardware stores.  Imported from Italy.

Next step: plug the holes in the base of the pots, so that water doesn’t drain out.  I did this with the lid of a PET bottle and sealed the edges with waterproof silicon sealant, but I’m sure there are other ways that are equally effective.  I tried to go low-tech and use clay, but it got soggy and fell apart.

Line the inside of the larger pot with sand, and place the smaller one inside.

Placing the pot in a tray is a good idea, as on hot days the cool water condenses on the outside of the pot and runs down the side.  This water is great to cool yourself in hot weather.

Top up the water in the sand layer every day so it stays damp, and cover the top with a towel.  Even when it’s over 40 degrees outside, the inside of the zeer pot is 15 degrees, so food keeps a lot longer than it would without refrigeration.  One catch: the evaporative process needs a dry climate to work effectively.  It wouldn’t do so well in a humid place.

Some more refrigeration tips.

Lots of things that are often kept in a refrigerator really don’t need to be.  Sauces, jams, miso, eggs and fruit keep perfectly well out of a refrigerator.  Many vegetables keep better in a dish of water.  This way they continue to be alive so are much more nutritious.  Celery, brocoli, leafy greens and beetroot keep really well this way.  Tomatoes, cucumber, zuchini are generally fine out of the refrigerator.

Of course all these things are much tastier and higher in nutrients if they are eaten directly from the plant.  I read somewhere that leafy greens lose 90% of their nutritional value within hours of being picked.  A great reason to eat weeds and grow your own food!


One response to this post.

  1. Interesting. Not sure if it will be helpful in Jamaica or not (I think it is humid). I certainly will tell my son in law (who has just lived in Victoria for 1 year) about it, for his very poor family back in the mountains of Ja.


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