VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — In many developing countries, families cook on open fires or use inefficient appliances, and are deeply affected by the consequent pollution. Almost 3 billion people rely on wood and charcoal for cooking, but this year alone, smoke from traditional cook stoves or fires will kill 4 million people.
“They [open fire cook stoves]make this world black,” Sarah, a woman in Sub-Saharan Africa said. “They also make us black inside.”
BURN Design Lab (BDL) is working to provide energy efficient, renewable cook stoves for people in developing countries to reduce deforestation and negative health impacts. Wood collection for cooking purposes is responsible for over half the destruction of African forests, and thus, BDL aims to help consumers make the switch from charcoal to more sustainable fuels.
The lab, a nonprofit research organization on Vashon Island, Wash., focuses on a user-centered process to create stoves that work with different cooking styles and traditions around the world. BURN’s cook stove engineering uses prototypes, field and lab tests, designs for manufacturability and market research to create products that will best serve developing countries’ needs.
BDL Founder Peter Scott committed his life to saving Africa’s forests when he first visited 20 years ago. Since then, he has lead cook-stove innovation efforts in the developing world and brings an approach to stove design that incorporates creativity, usability and the needs of users.
“Burn Design Lab is sort of my vision of creating a stove army,” Scott said.
The lab’s first major design was the Jikokoa, or “cool stove” in Swahili, in 2010. The stove is 43 percent more efficient than open fire cooking and reduces fuel consumption, particulate matter and smoke release by 50-70 percent. The design also saves users $200-$300 per year.
Other BDL stoves include Ekostove, made from cement blocks and targeted for households in rural Guatemala, and a “rocket” oven designed for Ethiopian bread makers. Among other current projects, BDL is working to produce stoves for wide distribution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a next-generation stove which they hope will be the most efficient, safest, low-cost wood burning cook stove in the world.
In addition to its base on Vashon Island, BDL is opening a production facility in Kenya in July 2014. The new facility, whose first assembly line was installed in July 2013, will be able to manufacture 99 percent of needed cook stove parts. The facility will have satellite centers to build stove kits in Uganda, beginning this year, and Tanzania and Rwanda, beginning in 2015.
The manufacturing center has a goal of producing 3.5 million sustainable cook stoves over the next 10 years. With the production of those stoves, BDL will save consumers an estimated $1.4 billion, reduce CO2 missions by 21.3 million tons, save 123 million trees and significantly reduce indoor air pollution. Between the production facility on Vashon and in Kenya, BDL will also create over 200 jobs.
BDL is constantly expanding its variety of sustainable stoves and reach to families around the globe, saving lives and finding ways to conserve resources.
“But this new stove, look at this with your eyes. I learned of this new stove two years ago,” said Sarah, who spoke about her experiences with new cook stove designs in a Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves video. “There is less smoke, and it uses much less fuel. The firewood I used in a week? It now lasts for a month.”
Sources: BURN Design Lab, King 5, Sarah’s Story
Photo: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves