Harnessing the sun’s rays for economic and environmental impact
It’s a practice with high financial, health and environmental tolls, yet despite these burdens most families in rural Mexico still cook with wood simply because they have few other options. By tapping into a free, renewable energy source, the University of Guadalajara, Los Valles University Center Enactus team taught these families they could eliminate indoor air pollutions, avoid smoky cooking fires, effectively boil drinking water and better sanitize cooking utensils – all for much less money.
They started by introducing solar ovens in the struggling community of Tizapán el Alto, Jalisco. They demonstrated that by using reflecting domes, specifically placed to best capture the sun’s rays, to cook, families could reduce the negative effects from wood on the respiratory system and eyes and dramatically cut food preparation costs. The team calculated the cost to prepare dinner using wood was $10 USD, $2.40 cooking with gas and $.85 cooking with a solar kitchen. After assisting several families with the implementation of solar kitchens, they taught them to use the ovens to create soups, sauces, beans and jelly to sell. These products are now sold in 10 grocery stores and tortilla shops in the area.
For the members of Tizapán el Alto, the “Cooking with the Sun” project has effectively reduced wood usage by 62.5 percent, spawned new businesses and made it possible for nearly 200 families to run their homes more economically and live healthier lives. The project’s environmental impact has earned sustainability awards and led the team to implement it in four additional communities.