As life-changing as the invention of the refrigerator was, the hulking and ubiquitous appliance is a major energy consumer (pdf). It’s also a place where food can easily be forgotten—and as anyone who has found lettuce moldering at the bottom of the crisper knows, ultimately wasted.
The designers Jihyun Ryou and David Artuffo set themselves the task of reducing our refrigerator dependence. With their project, Save Food From the Fridge, the goal was to design tools and containers that would preserve the nutrients and tastes of foods without refrigeration.
This month the design duo, known as Jihyun David, showcased three pieces at the Ambiente consumer goods trade fair in Frankfurt as part of the event’s Talents program, which highlights young designers.
The pieces on display not only keep vegetables and fruits fresh, but also turn them into beautiful decor: A shelf-like storage system to maintain and display fresh produce, for example; a bowl that uses water to cool down and preserve fruit; a cool marble platform to keep vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce fresh.
“Many vegetables and fruits that we are keeping in the fridge, actually are suffering in the fridge, from the cold, but we don’t know that,” said Ryou in a 2012 TEDx speech. “But in all the times before the refrigerator came into the society, people used to know that. I want to bring back this close relationship between food and people.”
The designs are on sale by demand, Ryou told Quartz via email. Interested buyers can contact the designers to arrange for the prototypes to be reproduced. Only the shelf and fruit bowl have been sold so far, Ryou said, but the pair are preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign this year for a shelf.
Ryou also keeps a Tumblr that’s packed with knowledge and tips on food preservation (keep your cauliflower in a vase instead of the fridge, for example, or dip the stem of your aubergine in wax).
We tend to store root vegetables horizontally, rather than vertically, which is how they grew, Ryou said. Ryou suggests keeping the vegetables standing upright, and the shelf that she and Artuffo designed uses sand to do so. The sand has the added benefit of maintaining the right humidity levels and preventing individual vegetables from touching each other and rotting.
Ryou subscribes to the belief that potatoes last longer and won’t sprout when in contact with the ethylene gas given off by apples (though some dispute that). It’s also best to keep potatoes in the dark, she says. A shelf the pair designed houses potatoes in the covered bottom and apples above, settled into holes that let the potatoes absorb the apples’ gases from below.
Ryou suggests not storing eggs among other foods in the fridge, because the porous surface of eggshells allow eggs to absorb the smells around them.
Of course, unrefrigerated eggs can rot more easily. To identify whether eggs stored outside the fridge are rotten, a water jar in the shelf offers a quick test: If the egg sinks, it is fresh; if it floats, it’s rotten.
Fresh fruit bowl
The “knowledge fruit bowl” is made up of a perforated top and a water-filled base. The idea is to pour water into the base and lay fruit on the perforated top, so that the evaporating water creates humidity that will help keep the fruit fresh for longer.
Leafy vegetables base
The marble plate’s coolness helps preserve the freshness of the lettuce and cabbage, Ryou said. Water is also poured into the base, as with the perforated fruit bowl.
Even the aesthetic appeal of these design objects—and of the vegetables and fruits they hold—has a role in preventing that lettuce-moldering-in-the-crisper scenario, Ryou said: “By having their beauty under our eyes, we will surely not forget to eat them again!”