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Social enterprise

Last modified: February 15, 2014, 12:12 AM




BURN Design Lab is a nonprofit organization working to save lives and forests in the developing world through the design and dissemination of clean burning cookstoves. Burn Design Lab's sister organization, Burn Manufacturing, has established a production facility in Nairobi and is currently launching a factory to build 3 million stoves in east Africa over the next 10 years.

The Global Challenge

Nearly 3 billion people rely on biomass fuels such as wood and charcoal for cooking and heating. The burning of biomass in inefficient cookstoves and open fires produces life-threatening smoke. Tragically, nearly 2 million people ̶ mostly women and children ̶ die every year from respiratory diseases related to indoor cooking smoke. This is more than double the number of deaths caused by malaria.

Harvesting fuelwood also diminishes tropical forests. In Kenya, for example, wood gathering has contributed to the destruction of 94% of the original native forest. In parts of rural sub-Saharan Africa, many women carry as much as 20 kg of wood for five kilometers each day. Families can spend over 35% of their annual income on wood or charcoal. The burning of biomass for cooking is also a primary source of black carbon in the atmosphere, which accounts for 20% of global warming.

The Response

The international community believes that the solution to these challenges lies in the distribution of clean-burning cookstoves.Improved cookstoves burn biomass with less smoke, cook more quickly, and require less fuel than traditional cooking methods.The number of stoves needed to meet this demand is enormous. National organizations such as the Indian National Stove Program and international programs like the UN Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves have committed to delivering 200 million improved cookstoves to the developing world over the next 10 years.

The question is how to provide 200 million clean-burning cookstoves to the world's poorest citizens. Two approaches have been tried, both with limited success. The most common strategy has been to encourage artisan production of low-cost cookstoves. Experience in the field has shown that this approach is not scalable and often produces stoves of uneven quality and performance. A second, more recent approach has been to manufacture cookstoves in large quantities in offshore factories, mainly in China. These stoves are generally not customized to local cooking needs. Moreover, offshore production incurs high transport costs and does not support local industry.

Our Approach

BURN's award-winning approach combines the best of both artisan and offshore methods of stove production. We create high quality stoves specifically designed for local use and manufacture. BURN's iterative design process utilizes modeling, lab testing, and field research to develop stoves that meet the unique needs of local cooks.

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18850 1035d Ave SW, Suite 100, Vashon, WA, 98070, US


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