Here at Green Optimistic, we’ve talked about biomass stoves before. While the Mayon Turbo Stove doesn’t advance the design, it demonstrates how energy value plays a large part in attracting interest in renewables.
In developing countries, importing fossils fuels can be a challenge. Since it is so expensive to cook without a fire, that in turn raises the value of any environmentally-friendly alternatives. Finding a way to cook sustainably will also increase stability and increase the quality of life for people living in these countries.
Sustainable cooking can have surprising benefits for rural communities. For instance, in the Philippines, women often spend 60-120 days every year collecting wood to be used in fires. Those hours could be used to increase the country’s economic and cultural productivity. Women and children also frequently suffer respiratory and eye infections because of smoke from indoor fires. Environmentally, consuming that much firewood is bad for biodiversity and the watershed.
Cooking is also much more complicated in developing countries when using fossil fuels. In the Philippines, most households need more than one cooking device for convenience and to be able to cook the varied components of their diet, centered around rice, fish, and vegetables. For instance, wood-burning stoves are used for boiling, while fish are usually grilled over charcoal.
Liquid petroleum gas is the most valuable for quick cooking, but is expensive and increases oil and gas imports to the Philippines.
Biomass stoves reduce cooking time, produce far less smoke than fires, and are designed to make traditional cooking easy. They are also cheap and consume very little fuel.
Value, in this case, can derive from convenience and economics, and still wind up helping the environment. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and hype over the latest green gadgets, and while those are important, biomass stoves are a reminder that some environmental solutions can have a multitude of positive beneifts. They can end up helping people, too.