Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Envirofit stoves

A health hazard for the world's poor is the inhalation of fumes from stoves and fires. Many have the fires for cooking inside of their huts which makes for toxic indoor air, but a new, greener stove hopes to change all of that.

From the Sunday Times, writer Tariq Tahir introduces us to the Envirofit stove.

A company funded by the charitable arm of Royal Dutch Shell, the oil giant, has developed a cheap and efficient stove that it says could save carbon and lives. Envirofit, a spinout from the University of Colorado, claims that its $20 (£13) stoves cut smoke and toxic emissions by 80%, and halve the amount of fuel that is needed. It aims to sell 10m in the developing world over the next five years.

This has been tried before. In India, where 400,000 people die every year from indoor air pollution, the government gave away 20m new stoves in the late 1990s. The initiative failed because the new kit was of poor quality and there was a lack of aftercare. Most people went back to cooking with their old stoves.

What is different this time, said Simon Bishop, head of policy at the Shell Foundation, is that Envirofit is approaching it as a money-making venture. “Everything we do is about applying business thinking to poverty and environmental issues. There is never going to be enough aid to go around so what you need to do is to focus our limited resources on self-financing mechanisms that can make a big impact.”

The Shell Foundation put up $10m of the $25m raised to roll out Envirofit’s stoves across India and is leading an awareness-raising campaign called Breathing Space.

The stoves are made with an alloy that survives much longer in a high-temperature caustic environment than traditional models. Its insulated chamber is better at holding in heat, cutting down on energy loss and so saving on fuel.

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