Sustainably Yours: Off-grid cooking, The Wonderbag

I’ve fallen in love with a product called the Wonder Bag. Since moving to Mexico, my family has delved into off-grid cookery, ranging from solar ovens to rocket stoves to rooftop dehydration. Supplementing our propane powered little cooking range has been a priority. Saving fuel in a smoke-less kitchen kind of way is vital to both Mexico, one of the most deforested nations and the world, where 3 billion people cook over open fires. Reminding us regularly are the neighbors who routinely visit woods around our house to chop down saplings (i.e. the forest trying to regenerate itself) in order to supply local tamale vendors who steam their wares over open fires.

Energy saving cooking products may inspire interest, but when eco-credentials are combined with convenience, as with the Wonder Bag, well this creates that warm and fuzzy feeling equated with fanatical brand loyalty. The Wonder Bag harkens from South Africa, and is an insulated thermal cooker. You heat or boil a main dish for 20 minutes, then let it braise in its own juices for up to 12 hours in the Wonder Bag. The Wonder Bag looks like a fluffy throw pillow that you nestle a pot into. At first I was concerned that it would be a magnet for mice, and yes, this luxuriously cozy orb would be the ultimate pad for the Hugh Heffners of the mouse population. Make that any mouse in the mouse population. But concerns over the habitat of insulated padding aside, the Wonder Bag is probably the most beloved addition to our green kitchen. Ever.

As per the website, wonderbagworld.com, using it over the course of a year yields a reduction in carbon emissions by 1 ton, saves 1.7 trees, 1000 liters of water, eliminates 60% of cooking-related indoor air pollution and frees up 1465 hours to devote to things other than hovering over a stove. To boot, the Wonder Bag doubles as a cooler, with items you need to keep chilled.

Above I mentioned the convenience factor inciting warm and fuzzy feelings. Especially because many green methods entail more work which you convince yourself that you love because it is wholesome. The convenience factor is the driving force behind crock pots, a heavily relied upon meal prep tool for many working households. The unfortunate bit about this electric version of the Wonder Bag is breaking news about lead contamination. For some crock pots, lead can seep into the food once normal-usage wear and tear on the ceramic glaze wears it down. But there is also a worst case scenario with some crock pots (primarily coming from China with its dubious safety standards) that the ceramic glaze itself contains lead. The idea of even possibly slow cooking food in a neurotoxin makes Wonder Bags the heat retention technology of choice. Plus it saves electricity! Booyah!

While not normally being one to evangelize for a brand, I can say that adding a Wonder Bag to your kitchen will give it an instant green boost that results in deliciousness.

EMILY MAJEWSKI was a sustainable landscape designer and consultant for 15 years prior to moving to Mexico in 2011. She and her husband live off grid and are dedicated to helping increase the sustainability of homes and gardens in our region.

Emily Majewski
Emily Majewski is Co-Founder of PHYTOSTONE, a small firm based in Nayarit dedicated to creating advanced natural materials for home and garden.