Cooking under the sun

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Courtesy of GLOBE SERIES

A $6 cardboard box that uses solar power to cook food, sterilise water and could help 3 billion poor people cut greenhouse gases, has won a $75,000 prize for ideas to fight global warming.

The 'Kyoto Box', named after the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol that seeks to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, is aimed at billions of people who use firewood to cook.

The cooker uses the greenhouse effect to boil and bake. It consists of two cardboard boxes, one inside the other, with an acrylic cover that lets the sun’s power in and stops it escaping and doubles as a ’hob top’. A layer of straw or newspaper between the boxes provides insulation, while black paint on the interior and the foil on the exterior concentrate the heat still further.

The design is so simple that the Kyoto Box can be produced in existing cardboard factories. It has just gone into production in a Nairobi factory that can produce 2.5 million boxes a month. A more durable model is being made from recycled plastic.

'We’re saving lives and saving trees,' the Kyoto Box’s developer Jon Boehmer, a Norwegian based in Kenya, said in a statement

This fuel-less stove aims to address health problems in rural villages as well as avoiding carbon dioxide emissions: it provides a source of clean boiled water, cuts down on indoor smoke inhalation and reduces the need to gather firewood.

The FT Climate Change Challenge was backed by the Financial Times, technology group Hewlett-Packard, which sponsored the award, and development group Forum for the Future. The other four finalists were a garlic-based feed additive to cut methane emissions from livestock, an indoor cooling system using hollow tiles, a cover for truck wheels to reduce fuel use and a 'giant industrial microwave' for creating charcoal.

A statement said that Boehmer would carry out trials in 10 countries, including South Africa, India and Indonesia. He would then collect data to back an application for carbon credits. Bøhmer envisions a network of women distributing thousands of the flat-pack devices from the backs of lorries to families across Africa and the developing world. His hope is that the cooker will be eligible for carbon credits - hence the name Kyoto Box. The €20-30 yearly profit per stove would be passed on to the users, meaning the device pays for itself.

'It’s all about scaling it up,' sums up Mr Bøhmer. 'There’s no point in creating something that can only help a few million people. The needs are universal - everybody needs to cook.'

The United Nations is discussing giving credits to developing countries that preserve tropical forests, which soak up carbon as they grow. Those credits could then be traded.

Many countries are looking for cheap green ways to stimulate economies mired in recession. More than 190 nations have agreed to work out a new U.N. climate pact to succeed Kyoto at a meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009.

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