Many of the best eco trends are less about new technologies and more about reviving the innovative technologies that existed when civilizations thrived without depending on copious amounts of fuel. Did you know that there were actually ancient refrigerators that sufficed quite well in preserving food? Naturally, the still work well today. Enter the zeer pot, a pot in pot refrigerator that has been re-introduced as a fuel-free method of preserving food.
A zeer pot is actually two ceramic pots, with sand and water between them as insulation. Food is placed inside the inner pot and covered with a damp cloth. As the water begins to evaporate the temperature of the inner pot is cooled, keeping the food preserved up to two weeks or more. Some water will need to be replaced twice a day due to evaporation.
This simple fridge is life-changing for many, especially for people living in the rural farming areas of Nigeria where Muhammed Bah Abba, a business lecturer re-introduced this zeer pot method with great effect. He found that the idea was best integrated into communities through entertainment, in the form of a play that was projected on the sides of buildings for everyone to gather and watch while learning about this “new” method of refrigeration. Muhammed paid for the production of the first zeer pots and gave them away for free. As the sustainable technology caught on, the zeer pots became a sought-after product.
Ultimately, the zeer pot is an innovative tool which allows people to finally create viable businesses from their agriculture surplus. Thanks to the “desert fridge” people who had no means of preserving food for long periods of time, can now preserve their food and transport it to markets where it could be sold fresh. This is particularly advantageous to rural and poor communities whose crop production yields no economic gain because the produce would rot or wilt before it could be sold at the market.
While the tool is particularly life-changing for rural, agricultural dependent communities, it can also be appreciated and integrated into modern western lifestyles. Although the majority of citizens use a refrigerator and have access to other convenient cooking methods, a zeer pot can be utilized as outdoor cooler, or a backup system during power outages, provided there is reliable access to water. Off the grid-ers and others that aim to decrease their footprint will find having a large zeer pot or two (or many!) around can provide an alternative to traditional refrigeration right there in their home.
Making a zeer pot is simple. What once were thought of as throwaway garden pots can be repurposed as mini eco-refrigerators. But before you choose which ceramic pots to use, make sure that there is no glaze or coating on the pots, as some may contain lead. Plug the hole in the bottom of both pots. Fill a layer of sand on the bottom of the largest pot before setting in the smaller pot. Then fill around the sides with more sand and finally, add the water almost to the brim (or less if you’ll have to move it). Since the water and sand never touches the food, it does not necessarily need to be filtered or purified, sea water, rain or river water could be used. You could probably use another material, other than sand if you want to tinker with other materials you have around. Muhammad conditionally chose sand because it was a readily accessible resource in the community areas he wanted to help.