The Fridge Lady – Emily Cummins

She has lovingly been dubbed “The Fridge Lady” by the people of Namibia, Africa because she was the one who brought them a solar refrigerator that works and helps them to keep their food cold using the sun’s power.

She also invented a water-carrying device that enables women and girls to carry not just a few containers of water at a time, but up to five! This invention makes the most of their time and efforts and when it finally wears out, the entire device is recyclable.

Who is Emily Cummins?

Emily hails from Keighley, West Yorkshire in England. She’s now a graduate of Leeds University, but has been inventing things to help people have a better quality of life since she was 15 years old.

Her philosophy behind her designs is to design products that take into consideration the very basics of invention while looking toward the future. She focuses on inventions that are sustainable and recyclable.

Emily’s Solar Refrigerator

Her portable, cylindrical solar refrigerator is small but it can keep food or medicine cold for several days at a time. It operates on the basic principle of using the sun’s energy and heat to keep the food inside at a temperature of 43 degrees Fahrenheit or 6 degrees Celsius.

The foods or medicines are placed inside the metal container and then sealed. Surrounding the inner metal container or chamber is a layer of soil, wool, or sand, which is then flooded with water. That layer is contained between the outer and inner containers of the solar refrigerator.

When the sun’s rays come into contact with the middle layer of soil, wool, or sand that’s been soaked with water, the water evaporates and the inner chamber that contains the food or medicine is cooled to a safe temperature.

Emily took her solar fridge to the people of Africa, specifically Namibia. She worked through six different versions of her original idea while making over fifty of the fridges while she was in Africa. Today, many, many more solar refrigerators have been made and are being used in various parts of Africa.

The fridge can be made using materials around the house – metal, wood, or cardboard. The inner chamber must be metal, but the other materials can vary depending on what is available. This, and the fact that she gave away her fridge for free, makes it an ideal design for third-world countries.

Emily’s Plan for the Future

She hopes to design another portable solar fridge that is even more efficient so that medical personnel can use it to transport life-giving medicines into and across countries that experience consistently hot temperatures.

She’s also hoping to create a solar refrigerator that can be used commercially.

Awards and Recognitions

· Young Engineer for Britain Award at age 16 for her toothpaste squeezer

· Sustainable Design Award – age 17 for her water carrier

· British Female Innovator of the Year – 2007

· York Merchant Adventurers awarded Emily a monetary amount for her solar refrigerator design

· 2008 – invited to an event to honor businesswomen making a difference and had the privilege of meeting the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace

· 2008 – awarded “Ultimate Save the Planet Pioneer” by Cosmopolitan magazine at the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women of the Year event

· 2009 – Woman of the Year Award – presented to her at the 54th Women of the Year Lunch held annually

· The Women of Achievement and the Girls! Make Your Mark organizations have named her an ambassador

Emily Cummins does public speaking events, so if you’re interested in hearing her ideas and her philosophy, you can contact her at

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