Looking for cookers that work

Of the actions we can take to reduce greenhouse impact, the ones that deserve the most attention are those with major side-benefits. Of the side-benefits that matter, the most compelling are those that benefit the poor.

Cooking and lighting, still done with open flames in much of the world, are contenders for the most important areas of action – not only is there an opportunity to reduce greenhouse impact, but there are substantial economic gains for the poor, and even bigger health gains – household fires cause respiratory disease, eye disease, and death for the poor on a huge scale. So why haven’t the problems been fixed?

There are lots of stove technologies – rocket stoves, solar cookers and the like – out there that can do the job better and use cleaner fuels, but the capital costs are higher and the distribution models are complex. Incentives from the carbon markets may be part of the solution, but they have not provided enough benefit to drive the adoption of clean cooking products on their own. Even more, getting certified through the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol is a long and complicated process, a real barrier for start-ups interested in attacking the stove problem.

We are committed to finding a solution here, and welcome any suggestions or thoughts as we move forward.  These stoves, along with the lack of lighting, are really the two biggest energy issues faced by the poor today.Acumen Fund Blog.

The post also states that “this is not simply a technological issue.” That’s the thing with appropriate technology – it’s never simply a technological issue.

Hat tip: Changed by Design.

Usability in blogs and stoves

Design prototypes in Myanmar. Which is cooler?

Over at 3brick design, a project spawned from Stanford’s Extreme Affordability class, they take user-centered design seriously, and respect the dignity of the people they’re trying to serve. The examples they’ve displayed so far look elegant and functional – I’ll be interested to see what they come up with.

One thing is sure: it’s unlikely to be a single design. As the context changes, the appropriate technology for the situation tends to change as well. Do the users mainly frying or do slow cooking, for example?

Showing that they think about their users in more than just a cooking context, the project has chosen a nice lean blog skin for WordPress called Darwin, designed to be fast-loading and easy on the eye. Good work.

Picture credit: “3 bricks. Many users.” at the Stanford Cool Product Expo blog.