Cleaner Cooking

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Billions of people across the globe rely on unhealthy, resource intensive, polluting cooking technologies. Time must be spent collecting fuel for these stoves, which have a negative impact on the environment and can also cause a variety of health complications. The benefits of improving cooking technologies are not just reduced smoke, which has less of an impact on health and climate, but also faster cooking and reduced fuel use, which saves time and money.

The two main ways enterprises try to help improve customers’ cooking processes are by providing:

  • More Efficient Stoves
  • New Cooking Fuel Sources


Cleaner Fuel Sources

One approach to cleaner cooking is to replace fossil fuels with cleaner biomass-based fuels, or to provide access to fuels such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas that are cleaner than local charcoal. Surveyed enterprises work with a variety of different biomass fuel sources, including: gasified rice husks, methane gas from animal waste, biomass briquettes and biochar, and liquified petroleum gas (LPG). For more information on biomass fuels, see the Biomass Power page.

Lessons Learned

Improved fuel types are produced from a variety of sources. One example is agricultural plant waste material, which is either gasified or heated into briquettes or biochar. Another example is waste material that can be digested into methane fuel by bacteria.   Finally, liquefied pretrolem gas can be used as an alternative where there is no piped natural gas.

Generally, in order to be adopted improved fuels must not only reduce smoke, but also reduce expenses and save time. Emissions improvements can be used to finance projects with carbon credits, but only in large-scale projects (see the Carbon Credits section on the Organization Financing page for details). These improved fuel technologies are generally delivered either in fuel form in tanks (Cows to Kilowatts, VidaGas),  as household fuel production devices (SKG Sangha, Grameen Shakti, re:char), or as actual stoves (Center for Rice Husk Energy Technology)

Case study

SKG Sangha designs and implements large-scale (10,000 at a time) household level biogas digester projects providing entire rural villages with digesters for cooking fuel and vermicompost fertilizer.

SKG Sangha’s digesters convert farm manure into cooking fuel , which saves families 2-3 hours per day collecting firewood. Because this burden usually falls on the shoulders of women and children, this means more time for schooling and improved nutrition, as well as reduced woodsmoke and soot in houses. Each digester offsets 5.9 tons of carbon per year, and projects are 80% financed through carbon offset sales.

Enterprise List

More Efficient Cookstoves

Efficient stoves make cooking cleaner by reducing the smoke emitted by traditional fuel sources. Generally speaking, this is done by channeling more of the energy generated from fuel into heat used for cooking, thus releasing less emissions into the air. These products generally produce 40-50% fewer emissions than traditional stoves, which is beneficial to health and the environment. Efficient stoves are relatively inexpensive and often don’t require users to find a new fuel source. Because they burn more efficiently, they save users time and money spent collecting fuel.


Lessons Learned

Cooking practices vary a great deal throughout the world, based on food sources and meal preferences, and therefore stoves often need modification for different regions.Some companies, such as Envirofit International, offer a range of stoves and accessories tailored to many different cooking needs, such as a charcoal stove, a wood stove, a built-in stove, a 2 pot burner, and an LPG accessory. Clean stoves are generally non-mechanical, and improve efficiency primarily through the use of better materials and a more efficient design.  However, some stoves, such as GRASP‘s, use a fan.

Case study

EnterpriseWorks/VITA Ghana sells improved cooking stoves manufactured in Ghana through local retailers, generating income for distributors and reducing money and time spent and indoor air pollution for users. 65% of urban households in Ghana use coal pot stoves to burn charcoal, which is inefficient and contributes to air pollution and deforestation. The improved stoves have reduced indoor air pollution and over the stoves’ 3-year lifespan have conserved the equivalent of more than 27,606 hectares of forest. Since stove manufacture and distribution began in 2003, EWV Ghana has sold over 150,000 stoves and has mentored manufacturers, distributors and retailers that are currently operating on a self-sustaining basis. Additionally, households have saved an average of $37 per year with a total annual savings of $3.6 million.

Enterprise list

What These Products Replace

The social enterprises in this sector target people using traditional cooking and heating methods, such as open fires or inefficient wood or charcoal-burning stoves.  60-90% of households in developing countries, about 3-5 billion people, still use biomass stoves. The majority of these users are women since they are often responsible for cooking and indoor work. Traditional cooking methods create health and environmental burdens and cost users both money and time.

  • Health problems: These stoves cause enough indoor air pollution to account for 4 percent of the global disease burden, as measured by disability adjusted life years (DALYs) lost.  According to the WHO, about 36% of acute lower respiratory infections, 22% of chronic obstructive heart disease and 1.5% of cancers of the trachea, lung and bronchus are caused by exposure to indoor air pollution.
  • Environmental problems: Improved stoves, which can use one half to one-third the wood of traditional stoves, can save 1-2 tons of carbon every year. In addition, they reduce deforestation by using less wood.
  • Costs in Money and time: Three-stone fires waste up to 85% of the energy they generate.  Since poor families often spend up to 20% of their income on cooking fuel, or spend 1/4 of their time collecting wood (generally women), this is a major problem, and efficIent stoves can create visible income and productivity benefits.  These benefits are more evident to families living in already-deforested regions where collecting fuel is more of a burden.