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Permaculture in the Kitchen

I first subscribed to Permaculture Activist in May, 1992 and it has proven to be a gold mine of information over the years about the philosophy of permaculture. What is permaculture, anyway? The most concise definition that I can think of is that it is a way of living that applies the rules that govern natural ecosystems to human communities. In short, we live as part of the eco-system instead of being alienated from it, as we have done for hundreds of years. Does this mean returning to a hunter-gatherer existence and giving up all modern conveniences? Not at all. It means living more intelligently and attuning ourselves to natural cycles – a crucial change that we either adopt voluntarily or we will be forced to adopt by accelerating changes in the environment.

If you read the Wikipedia article on Permaculture, which is quite lengthy, you will see no reference at all to the idea that permaculture has a place in the kitchen. An article in issue 71 of Permaculture Activist, entitled A Fridge That Takes Only 0.1kW a Day, by Tom Chalko, applies permaculture principles to the kitchen. If you adopt a permaculture outlook towards living, you will realize that an upright refrigerator violates the natural law that cold air sinks. When you open the door of your refrigerator, all of the cold air “falls” out and must be replaced by several compressor cycles worth of energy. When you open the door of a chest refrigerator, however, all of the cold air stays in place and energy use is minimized. In his article, Tom describes how he converted a chest freezer to a chest refrigerator that consumes only $5 per year of electricity. Of course, that figure depends on the price of electricity in your area. I looked on the Internet for chest refrigerators, but there is only one company that makes them and they are quite expensive. Buying a new or used chest freezer and converting it to a refrigerator, while not a job for the less-than-handy, is a very economical alternative. The instructions appear online, at Tom’s website. There is a detailed instruction manual here.

Here is a picture of the finished product:


It looks just like the conventional chest freezer, with the exception of the thermostat on the wall and the modification of the power supply.

3 Comments on “Permaculture in the Kitchen”

  1. #1 june
    on May 16th, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    Guess I’ll just try not to open and close it unnecessarily 🙂

  2. #2 Beth
    on May 16th, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Hmmm…an interesting idea. Good point he makes about cold air sinking. I should think, though, that trying to dig down into the freezer/refrigerator to find that leftover chicken casserole would be kind of frustrating. I don’t quite understand how you would stack things so you could readily access them in there the way you can in a refrigerator. Also, does it have an actual freezer section like a conventional refrigerator for your ice cream and such? There are refrigerators available that have the freezer section at the bottom which I suppose is based on the same idea that cold air sinks.

  3. #3 colleen
    on Jun 5th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Joe and I were recently trying to condense the description of permaculture into one or two sentences and weren’t able to.

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