Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) has introduced a new food cooling technique called the ‘Zero Energy Cooling Chamber’ (ZECC), an eco-friendly storage system developed to preserve food, and aims to mitigate climate change. The ZECC functions similarly to a conventional refrigerator in the sense that the chamber ‘pushes’ heat out. However, it is cheaper and has a higher energy efficiency than a typical fridge. It requires no electrical energy whatsoever, just water to maintain function. The design consists of an inner chamber, a surrounding layer of wet sand, and another wall encasing it. According to the International Journal of Engineering Research & Technology, Zero Energy Cool Chambers stay 10- 15° C cooler than the outside temperature and maintain about 90 per cent relative humidity. ALSO READ: REMA urges regular auto check-ups The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) noted that collection of human-made greenhouse gases known as ozone-depleting substances (ODSs), including chlorofluorocarbons found in industrial products like air conditioners and refrigerators, destruct the ozone layer— a layer of gas high up in the atmosphere that helps protect us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays—leading to skin cancer and weak immune systems, among other issues. This makes the ZECC a better option as it does not produce or release any greenhouse gases. Speaking to The New Times, Martine Uwera, the Programme Manager for Environment Mainstreaming and Biodiversity Management and National Focal Point of Montreal Protocol, said the new technology is both inexpensive and accessible to the local community. “It is one of the green technologies that REMA recommends as alternatives, addressing environmental issues and climate change,” she noted. She mentioned that when it comes to cooling foods such as vegetables, it is an alternative option to refrigerators which are harmful to the environment. The ‘Zero Energy Cooling Chamber’ was developed by Rwanda Polytechnic Institute of Science and Technology - Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (RP-IPRC) in Musanze, as a practical module to help students understand one of the cheapest tools to combat climate change. Evergiste Niyonsenga, an Assistant Lecturer in Crop Production at RP-IPRC, has confirmed that the ‘Zero Energy Cooling Chamber’ project has no adverse impact on the ozone layer or the environment in general. “It uses local materials which are environment friendly like stones, unfired bricks, along with sand and water,” he said. The room, consisting of two walls and filled with sand, should be covered with dried banana fibres. It should be built under a shade to prevent direct sunlight. Vegetables or other fresh foods are placed inside the cooling room for three to five days. ALSO: REMA warns of water pollution in Lake Kivu Governor of Northern Province, Maurice Mugabowagahunde, hailed the method, saying it can address the post-harvest challenges that local farmers are going through.