Cooking up green solutions

Western Isles, Scotland

Challenge team: Western Isles Libraries and community group Na h-Eileanan Siar 

Population of Western Isles/Outer Hebrides: 26,000

Summary: This challenge team is introducing an energy-free method of cooking in the Western Isles of Scotland to help reduce people’s carbon footprint and cut their fuel bills.

The Western Isles – a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland – faces one of the worst fuel poverty problems in the UK. The combined challenges of an ageing population, low incomes, extreme weather and poor insulation – exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis – mean that many islanders are struggling to pay their fuel bills. 

Western Isles Libraries and community group Na h-Eileanan Siar want to play a role in helping to address this problem by working with islanders to explore potential solutions to the high cost of cooking.

With that in mind, the challenge team is introducing an energy-free method of cooking that has been used in many countries around the world for many years – known as the WonderBag™. Simply put, the WonderBag™ is an energy-free slow cooker that uses two insulated bags to cook food over a number hours.

Food needs to be prepared first on the stove, but once it’s come to the boil, the dish can be transferred to the bag, where it will cook over several hours, leading to a huge reduction in energy use.

To launch the project, the challenge team gifted a WonderBag™, a cooking pot, a thermometer and a sample recipe book to residents, all of different ages and all located across different islands, as well as a local celebrity chef. Each participant was asked to keep a video diary of their experiences using the WonderBag™ as they tried out different recipes over a month.

The plan is to create a short film promoting the project from the videos and this will then be shared via social media, organisations and the press. Once the team has evaluated the learning gained from the initiative, they will look to expand it and make sure that it becomes known throughout the islands – and beyond – as a green and viable option for cooking in the future.

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