Last year was a difficult year in business and we often thought about just giving up. However, when we visited Ethiopia last year, we gained a little perspective on what a difficult year really could be. When our economy tanks, we do things like cut out the cable and gym memberships. When the economy goes bad in Ethiopia, people go without food or fuel for cooking the food. We saw what a lot of people see there - women whose backs were bent with the weight of carrying firewood. Firewood is used for cooking and every night, we could look out on the city of Addis Ababa and see dozens of fires burning. These fires boil water and cook injera bread which consumes the majority of a woman's day. If you could give some of that time back and some of the money spent on firewood to those women, would you? What I read about today is the competition for building a clean burning and efficient open fire stove for developing countries. There are some interesting videos on the web about companies like Stove Tec and Envirofit.Photo courtesy of Stove Tec
They are building stoves that are made out of steel and clay that are inexpensive and clean. These can reduce cook times by 30-50% and emissions as much as 50-75%. The emissions from cooking with an open fired stove far exceed the emissions from a car and are especially harmful to humans because of the black soot produced. These companies are working to not only help provide for a need in the developing world, but also to help them save our world's environment as well. Most have little idea of the damage that these fires do their families' health much less to our planet.
This year we are going to try and keep focused on the big picture and what we can really do to help. If buying a $40 stove to help a family in need in a developing country can save more emissions than buying a $20K hybrid then it's definitely time to start looking at this year's opportunities in a new way.