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New Stoves Could Save Lives

When we’re in our kitchens cooking over $1,200 electric radiant cooktops, half the world is still slaving over open fires. And whether you know it or not, the pollution and deforestation associated with rural cooking affects all of us. Clean stoves offer a twofold solution to this problem by saving both our planet and millions of lives. In fact, the production of economical, clean-burning cookers has caught the attention of the EPA, World Health Organization, United Nations and Oakridge National Laboratory.

An average cooking fire turns out a billow of carbon dioxide equivalent to that of a car, as well as black carbon that warms the earth. But more immediately pressing is the epidemic of smoke inhalation, the sixth leading cause of death in developing countries that claims some 1.6 million lives every year.

The question that has surfaced from this is how to build cheap, durable, clean-burning stoves for three billion people. Two non-profits have gained some ground and good coverage for their contributions: Aprovecho’s StoveTec and Envirofit.

Kitchen stove topStove Camp, hosted by Oregon’s Aprovecho Research Center offering education for sustainable living, is where forward-thinking engineers, health policy professionals and others meet to brainstorm cheap stoves that use less fuel and don’t emit deadly smoke. So far, they’re on the right track. The center, alongside Shenghou Stove Manufacturers (SSM) in China, was 2009’s international winner of the Ashden Energy Champion Award. This recognition encourages “greater use of local sustainable energy to address climate change, alleviate poverty and improve quality of life.” Envirofit has a stove they feel just as confidently about.

Manufacturing 12,000 stoves a month, SSM is putting the design out there. The next challenge is to convince villagers in developing countries that cooking by fire is more than an inconvenience - that the unfamiliar product can save lives as well as stabilize the climate.

Read more: New Yorker

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