3 Solar Ovens That Give You the Power to Cook With the Sun
With barbecue season around the corner, what could be more planet-friendly than cooking with the sun? Instead of gas/electricity/charcoal/wood, a solar cooker harnesses heat from the sun to cook food.
From baking cookies to frying eggs, these pollution-free devices work wherever there is sunshine, regardless of how cold it is outside. With ample sunlight, most get into temperatures between 250-350 degrees Fahrenheit, with some top end varieties going nearly 600 degrees.
Solar cookers come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges and you can even DIY. Here are instructions for solar box cookers, parabolic cookers and panel cookers. And here's a kid-friendly version from NASA that basically requires a cardboard box, plastic wrap, aluminum foil and regular office supplies.
For those of you who are less handy, check out some of our favorites you can buy online.
Solar cookers are ideal for people who enjoy camping outdoors or live off-grid, but for people in energy-impoverished nations, they can be a lifesaver when fuel is limited or if water needs purification. Developed for use in refugee camps in 1995, the $39.00 CooKit panel cooker is made of cardboard and aluminum foil and is the most widely-used solar cooker in the world. The CooKit is incredibly portable as it folds flat into a 13-by-13 inch square that's 2 inches thick. Cooking temperature range is 180-240 degrees Fahrenheit.
As Insights writer Eric Hoffner pointed out, "lack of access to such clean cooking options is a huge issue globally: 3 billion people cook their daily meals over smoky biomass fires every day causing more than 4 million annual mortalities, mostly women and children, from smoke inhalation related diseases. Not only is it a human health issue, but forests and the climate suffer: most households that rely on smoky stoves burn 2 tons of biomass per year, about 730 million tons globally, which releases about a billion tons of carbon dioxide. The resulting particulate matter also traps heat in the atmosphere."
Food gets “steam-fried” inside this unique, tubed-shaped solar cooker making it ideal for vegetables and meats and even baking bread. A GoSun was one of the solar-powered stoves featured on a December episode of Bravo’s hit reality cooking competition Top Chef. Host Padma Lakshmi gave the contestants 30 minutes to create a dish with “the cleanest energy there is—the sun.”
TONIGHT: @BravoTopChef @ChefJoseAndres Challenges Contestants to Cook With #Solar Stoves https://t.co/KfilP7Iwk2 https://t.co/VP54ik11nN— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1450369413.0
GoSun social designer Matt Gillespie told EcoWatch last year that the GoSun Grill can roast a meal for eight as fast as a grill. And since it has a thermal battery, users can cook whenever they want to, even if it’s cloudy. The company sells different iterations of stoves online, such as the 7 lbs. GoSun Sport and the industrial sized GoSun Station. The products can reach temperatures of 550 degrees Fahrenheit and can cook a meal in 20 minutes, depending on what’s being cooked and the amount of sunlight.
In the video below, a YouTuber shows how she cooked a batch of moist brownies with the oven.
Think of the Solavore Sport as a crockpot within an oven. Here's how it works: Sunlight enters through the transparent cover and hits internal cooking pots that transform light into heat. Heat builds inside the longer it sits while the exterior of the box remains cool to the touch.
TreeHugger's Derek Markham recently reviewed the unit and said that the 9-pound cooker is "light and portable, and a convenient addition to home cooking."
The Sport can roast, bake, steam using only solar energy. "Using the natural moisture in meats, fish, and vegetables, the Sport cooks without additional water so all the natural vitamins and minerals are retained, giving food a wonderful rich flavor," the company says.
"Using something as simple and elegant as a black box with a lens on top, putting your pots inside and knowing that all day the sun's going to be making that dinner," Solavore CEO Anne Patterson says in the video. "There's something just beautiful about that simplicity."
The company is even paying it forward with each purchase. Every solar oven that's purchased helps fund a Solavore Sport somewhere in the world where an open fire is still the main kitchen appliance.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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