Mini “PR bridges”: solar generator, solar oven cover, mini RV toilet

Typically I am not a fan of purchasing new stuff. However, once in a while I feel there is a good reason to buy something new. Over the past few months, I have bought three new things. Not only do they benefit me/my household, but also they have the potential to serve as “little ambassadors” reaching out to the mainstream “civilian” public.

Solar generator: I bought a little generator from 4Patriots, which can charge either by the sun or by conventional AC plug power. The one I bought is their smallest model; enough to keep the phone charged and maybe run a couple of small appliances during an extended outage. Besides using it to keep our own phones charged, I envision offering it as a micro amenity for the neighborhood in the event of an extended outage. 4Patriots (as well as Jackery and other brands offering similar) do have much larger models — some can even power a fridge — but my philosophy is just to provide for the bare essential minimum, which to me is basic communications. I do believe in minimizing our dependence on appliances and electricity in general, although they are nice to have around when they are available. (BTW I believe Kelly Kettle (and maybe other brands) offers a twig stove that includes a USB plug you can use to charge your phone, but I’ve never tried that.) I consider a solar generator a great improvement over gasoline generators. One reason, besides free availability of the sun, is the quietness of the solar generator.

Solar oven cover: My solar oven, the Global SunOven, is an advertisement in itself, especially since I recently moved the oven to a super-sunny position front and center in the yard and highly visible from the sidewalk. I often hear passersby comment on it, and if I happen to be out there, I answer their questions and sometimes long and interesting conversations ensue. But I wanted to add a bit of weather protection since sometimes I leave it outside for days at a time. The sun oven company offers a nice canvas cover with the sun oven logo on it. It looks a bit like a barbecue cover — which to me is cool because it helps normalize a solar oven as one of the outdoor cooking options alongside a charcoal grill.

Mini RV toilet: A lot of companies that serve the boating community and vandweller crowd etc. are getting into the act with super compact waterless toilets. Some of the toilets are cassette models, designed to be emptied into a regular toilet. Others are containers you line with a compostable bag and then toss the contents the same way you would toss pet waste — either into your compost bin or into the trash, according to what’s available to you. The other day I purchased one of the latter type of toilets, the Trelino Evo S, and I am very pleased with its look and its tight closure. I will have no problem offering houseguests this option. (Note, it is a compact size and probably a larger, male person might find it a bit too short to sit on.) The one I purchased is the smallest option; Trelino offers a medium and a large as well, with the same sleek appearance and highly functional design.

Household resilience is a beautiful thing. While “soft” skills — such as how to use up food in a freezer and how to live comfortably without airconditioning — are probably the most important, a few carefully selected goods and appliances can really help you and your household members feel more secure and less anxious about power outages and other disruptions to the centralized distribution channels.

And, my convenient little purchases double as handy PR devices to inform and educate the general public.