While we recognize that harnessing the power of solar is often costly (those panels don't show up on your roof without a significant investment unless you're a do-it-yourselfer who is adept at scrounging and installing), but when it comes to cooking, if you've got 1. a box and 2. some aluminum foil, you can come up with a solar cooker that will amaze you with its effectiveness.
Why not put aside a bit of time on June 21, the first day of summer, (and also the newly declared Solar Day), to build an oven with your kids.
SolarCooking.org offers multiple ideas for all types of solar ovens using everything from pizza boxes, to windshield shades, to tires. Here, you can learn everything you've ever wanted to know about solar cooking, but were too shy to ask. And here are some great recipes to try.
It's important to note that cooking takes longer in a solar oven. Sometimes much longer. So solar is probably not the best choice when you're craving a casserole and you need it now!
Nor is solar cooking exactly a science. It's difficult to tell exactly how long something will take to cook because this is dependent on a bunch of variables like the type of cooker, thickness of the pot, how much water is used, thickness of the food, the angle of the sun etc. If you're looking for a crass generalization, given optimum conditions, most items take aboutt twice as long to cook with this method.
On the plus side, food rarely burns in a solar cooker, so it doesn't need to be watched nearly as carefully as something on a stove or in a conventional oven.
Solar ovens also are changing the face of cooking in developing countries. Ovens like those from Sunoven.com, are being used in many places where there is little or no access to any other type of fuel (often due to deforestation). Sun Ovens supports a program that brings small business to remote communities by supplying solar ovens and the means to start bakeries.
How about celebrating Solar Day not only by making a solar oven but by making a donation toward a solar oven for a woman in the developing world through SunOven.com? Now that's hot!
Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are a mother-daughter team and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at www.CelebrateGreen.net.