Can we live without refrigeration? Héctor Pereyra designed a way to store fresh produce without electricity.

A few years ago, Héctor Pereyra was starting a new chapter in his life. He had just moved into an apartment in Buenos Aires and was tired after lifting furniture and heavy boxes. He took a break and walked to the refrigerator for a drink. When he opened the door, he realized that things were not cold as the fridge was not working.

“I lived a while without it. I bought the necessary amount of food and cold drinks,” he explained.  “I had to drink them quickly and ate everything to not have leftovers. I learned not to waste anything and to cook only what I needed. ‘How can I manage to live without a fridge?’ I wondered. But how did people store their food before the fridge was invented?”

It turns out that only meat, fish, and milk need to be preserved using cold. Fruits and vegetables are damaged by cold. And when it comes to electricity, a refrigerator is one of the most electricity-drawing appliances.

“We are doing everything wrong!” Hector said. “We damage the food with cold and that waste is pure methane that we toss into the environment. I did my research and there were accounts about the same topic everywhere: vegetables should not be stored in the fridge.”

Hector came up with the design for La Caja Verde (The Green Box), a solution to store fresh vegetables and fruits without the power of electricity. He worked with Tali Signorile, a plastic artist, to build it [watch their video interview]. Together, they wanted to find a way to combat food waste and reduce the use of energy resources to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, save money and consume healthier food.

“We found food preservation treaties from the 18th Century,” he said, “and, together with the tips given by my granddad and many experiences of people who live without a fridge, we tried to design a piece of furniture that simulates ancient root cellar conditions, but one that is appropriate for homes, employing learned techniques without using electricity. This is how we could design this item of furniture to store the biggest variety of fruits and vegetables in one place and that is the size of a kitchen cabinet.”

La Caja Verde is made of phenolic multi-laminated wood that is highly resistant to moisture. It is lightweight, easy to move around, holds a total of 20kg of vegetables and can be used in any climate. 

La Caja Verde does not use electricity. It uses allelopathy which refers to all the biochemical interactions among plants, or between plants and microorganisms. La Caja Verde uses that interaction together with a little sand and water. This simple technique can preserve fruits and vegetables for more than two weeks.

One hundred Green Boxes currently in use will reduce 108,000 kg of organic waste this year. This #peoplepowered solution is ideal for low-income areas, where electricity is hard to access, and the box has potential to be used during humanitarian crises to store relief goods for people in need.