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NW entrepreneurs focus on saving lives with better stoves

Women in India using an Envirofit clean cookstove to reduce indoor air pollution

Women in India using an Envirofit clean cookstove to reduce indoor air pollution

By Tom Banse of Northwest News Network

More than a century after the discovery of electricity, billions – yes, billions – of people still heat and cook with wood fires. In the developing world, indoor air pollution from smoke is blamed for nearly 2 million deaths per year.

Burning wood, crop waste, charcoal or dung does the damage, filling homes with smoke and blackening walls. It’s women and children who suffer the most, because they are the ones tending the fires.

But it’s not an easy a problem to fix.

World traveler Peter Scott looks at the sky over Vashon Island, Washington where he lives and works. He’s hardly impressed.

“You know, a bad day in the Pacific Northwest is nothing like a good day in Africa, what people are exposed to there,” Scott says. “Maybe this will give people a hint: imagine if you didn’t have a chimney in your house and you were supposed to live in that smoke.”

Scott is president of the BURN Design Lab. That’s one of at least four Northwest based non-profits whose founders are convinced cleaner, more efficient cookstoves can save millions of lives. It could also lessen deforestation, global warming and poverty.

“We want to make a stove that uses 50 percent less fuel and 90 percent less emissions,” Soctt explains. “We want to do that without a fan or any sort of complicated system. To make a stove for $20 or $25 that can be affordable in Africa, that’s a real challenge.”

Yet, his team has done it. Scott says they’re ready to move to mass manufacturing. He’s sketched plans for a big factory in Kenya.

Even the Clinton family finds this to be an unacceptable problem that must be dealt with. The Clinton Global Initiative was set up in 2005 to combat obstacles such as this.

Veronique Barabelet of the World Food Programme tells NPR about the terrible dilemmas that families encounter while searching for firewood in war zones.

“You hear women in northern Uganda and places like that telling you, ‘My choice is between going out there and collecting firewood and being raped, or for my husband to go out and get killed, and I would rather go and get raped,’ ” she says.

It’s innovations that make cookstoves cleaner and more efficient that will save millions of lives and prevent traumatic experiences all around the world. Choose an organization to get involved with and help save lives today.

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