Achieving high-tech results with low-tech solutions

How the integrated approach to low-tech solutions works in practice

There are countless examples of low-tech solutions in domestic and commercial applications. It is easier to build, apply and repair such creations. The main reason – recyclable parts and materials are often available everywhere. This extends the life span of the sum total of materials used by another 50-100 years before final scrapping. Low-tech integrated systems that we discuss here replace too expensive or unavailable high-tech alternatives. For instance, peddle juicer provide people with small incomes at events, especially in low economies. On top of that they are a great way of teaching sustainable solutions that both adults and kids love to try out.

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Peddle-blend-drink with intermediate technology

They are a perfect offspring of a collaborative approach that brings together different disciplines. That way the innovation and installers work in synergy. Moreover, a sheer simplicity, beauty, and quirkiness of such designs can awaken imagination, especially in young people. This goes on to inspire a new generation of eco inventors on all continents.  One of the most redeeming features, apart from high performance, is the ingenuity of a new thinking process.  It allows us to view ‘old’ answers through a lens of new possibilities and needs.

Our two articles about low-tech solution and integrated approach to climate change focus on three solutions: solar cookers, biochar filters and swamp coolers. They are, in our opinion, absolute stars in terms of what they achieve and how they transform the lives of individuals and communities alike. These eco solutions are examples of a highly effective approach to solving all sorts of problems in communities, all at once. 

This synergy takes place when we use them strategically, just like we show in this article. When it comes to Europe, the low-tech doesn’t get enough funding. So it is almost invisible at a household level. As a result, in our well-off societies we miss many educational and entrepreneurial opportunities to accelerate a shift of scaling up and down all green innovation across different sectors. The councils could be promoting these as a sound option for house retrofits. Willing craftspeople, the unemployed, and generally anyone with technical skills and interest, could apply these to gain an additional income.

How we practically apply the intermediate technology

The intermediate technology is a part of this new approach which we promoted and presented at COP conferences, art festivals and wherever possible.
Where we tackle diverse issues by building an ecosystem of solutions. We then share it globally within a framework of an open source framework. We called this a global immune system of solutions – a sort of constantly updating inventory of all solutions for addressing the climate crisis. We argued that it was no longer enough to just wait for everyone to change their behaviour, change lightbulbs or retrofit old houses. What we needed was a big plan that would integrate the most effective solutions into all of our activities and all sectors. We proposed a framework where new forms of green solutions sharing can start at national levels. This way, teams of specialists and generalists can be more effective within today’s timeframes. This process would also need to interact with the public. We all think up climate solutions outside academic circles everywhere.

Together with community-led lifestyle centres and SDGs, this would offer each country highly effective tools. Thus helping them transition to carbon zero economies. We would see an acceleration of social and economic reforms. This boosts each country’s climate change strategy and aligns it with The Paris Accord agreement. More on this integrated approach can be found here.

Star solution 1:  Solar powered kitchens inside our homes

“We are star stuff harvesting sunlight.” 

Carl Sagan

Have you thought about cooking ecologically with the sun?  Do you want to know how to boil water for endless cups of tea or coffee or prepare a main meal of the day? We have a great choice of solar cookers today. Parabolic cookers, solar box ovens and other folding solar cookers have made this possible. They are easy and fun to use and can fit into our busy schedules.

They are a perfect demo tool for a chef cooking with the sun! We see them at a local event promoting organic and locally sourced food. And solar cooking appears at festivals. I set up and ran a solar café with solar cookers at Brighton Festival. We boiled water for drinks and cooked light meals for amazed customers. Even on a slightly cloudy day, there was enough light to show the potential of these cookers. And how the sun provides us with free energy to meet our basic needs. Without doubt, solar cookers are a great magnet for festival goers of all ages. They are a crowd pleaser because of a sense of wonder they evoke. There is nothing better than seeing smiley faces at the sound of kettle whistling in a field kitchen that runs without any cables. The whistle going off is like a light bulb switching on in the mind. A realisation that low-tech works. Intermediate technologies are back and we, too, can use them to do our bit for the climate. 

Solar cookers that we talk about are The Sheffler Reflector units. They are Wolfgang Scheffler’s original designs. He built the first such device in 1986 at a mission-station in North-Kenya where it is still in use today. Nowadays, a German company Solare Brücke and their international partners distribute these novel solar kitchens. There are a few thousands Scheffler Reflectors in use worldwide. The idea behind this innovation is that the sun energy is the only source powering our kitchens. We switch away from gas or electricity to these ecological units. We can fit them either in our homes or outside. They help us run our kitchens more efficiently whilst reducing our household’s carbon footprint. For people living in the south these solar kitchens are the only means of cooking. They are, therefore, a much bigger deal as they save firewood and fuel. The key finite resources that cause deforestation and global warming. So these solar kitchens are a win-win solution for every region, poor or rich. They can create new green infrastructures that high-tech alone cannot bridge. We can use them to accelerate the awareness of the need to act.

Are they better than high-tech? Yes, they are because they better suit the needs of people who utilise them at present. They are not perfect solutions. Why? They function at 70-80 % efficiency of other high-tech and expensive solar systems. However, they are cheaper and easier to install, run and maintain. What’s more, they are addressing the energy needs right now. When it comes to climate change scales, anything that works less than 100% now is better than something that works 100% tomorrow. The idea with low-tech is to take some of that lost control back in our daily lives. You, too, can offset your high energy bills with these low-tech devices wherever you live.

Everyone stops, just waiting for governments to do things, hoping for things to improve. If more of us use simple low-tech renewable energy kits, devices, and solutions we make the task of greening our homes and workplaces immediate. Others can then start to extrapolate positive gains wider to speed up the low carbon transition. On a community level, low-tech solar removes the inertia that sets due to a lack of affordable answers. Many of us can kick-start new projects and businesses with low-tech.

A case in point is a mega Solar Kitchen installation at The Brahma Kumaris Yoga Centre in Rajasthan, India. In 1999 a giant solar-steam cooking system was built from 84 Scheffler dishes. This system gives 35,000 meals a day. This DIY solar kitchen feeds around 18,000 visitors that pass through it at any given time. The Centre saves 400 litres of diesel per day.

This low-tech and zero carbon solar cooking is a climate change solution.
You can learn how to build these solar cookers and various configurations of systems directly on the maker’s website. You can also download detailed construction manuals for free.


Featured image: peddle juicer. Photo by Marie-Françoise Jay from

Peddle-powered juicer image from: