I recently visited Aprovecho, a 40-acre non-profit center about 15 miles south of where I live. They research green skills and sustainable living practices. They also tend a 1.5 acre garden; sustainably manage 23 acres of forest; and teach workshops in subjects like green building, permaculture, rainwater harvesting, and eating a 100-mile diet.
In addition, they develop something called Appropriate Technology (AT). On their website they define AT as devices that are “energy-efficient, nonpolluting, and renewable” that are made from “available materials, many of them recycled”.
Aprovecho was founded in 1979 by a group of back-to-the-land hippies interested in a specific type of AT: stove design. They wanted to develop affordable, fuel-efficient cooking stoves for use in the third world. And they developed something called the rocket stove, which is designed to use a small amount of wood, fully combust it, and keep smoke out of the house.
In the last thirty years, the Aprovecho staff has done over 100 stove projects in 60 different countries. Last year Prince Charles awarded them with the prestigious Ashden Award for one of their designs.
The group of people specializing in stove work recently moved off the Aprovecho campus and spun off into a separate non-profit. But they left behind an outdoor kitchen equipped with all different types of efficient cooking stoves. One of them is called a haybox. It’s a box that is so tightly insulated that you can bring rice and beans to a boil, stick the pot inside the box, and in several hours, the rice and beans will cook, with no extra energy expended.
After visiting Aprovecho and learning about their efficient cooking stoves, as well as their solar showers and composting toilets, I’ve been thinking that it would be fairly easy for more people to switch to at least somewhat more appropriate technologies, like:
- regular toothbrushes instead of electric toothbrushes.
- mixing spoons instead of electric mixers
- clotheslines instead of dryers
- bicycles instead of cars (at least for shorter trips)
I think I’ll stick with my flush toilet and electric range for now. But I’m a lot more mindful that the most high-tech tool is not always the best one for the job.
What types of Appropriate Technology do you use? In what ways do you try to conserve energy?