Photo Credit: Energant
Apr 22
April 22, 2015

Stoves that Charge Cellphones and Homes Made of Straw: Creative Clean Energy Solutions


Around the world, CGI Commitments to Action are creating new approaches for cleaner air and water, protecting habitats and species, and developing solutions to reverse climate change. These efforts to positively impact the planet also reflect a desire to make more environmentally-conscious choices that improve overall quality of life, particularly for the 1.3 billion people who lack access to electricity.

Global energy access expansion remains stagnant or even lags behind population growth rates in certain geographies, largely due to lack of access to capital. And, in addition to the 1.3 billion people who don't have electricity, there are millions more whose livelihoods are limited by expensive and unreliable energy sources. Access to energy is a defining feature of social and economic mobility, and the three commitment-makers spotlighted below are working to propel environmental and social progress with clean energy solutions.

Clean Energy Technology Creates Jobs for Women in India

Solar lights are distributed to decrease the use of hazardous kerosene lamps. PHOTO CREDIT: REEMA NANAVATY / Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)

In India, the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) continues to change the lives of rural Indian women through positive environmental efforts. SEWA's 2010 CGI commitment, Green Skills for the Poor, has empowered women in the community and created better living conditions by providing clean cookstoves and solar lights to local households. The clean energy technology developed by SEWA replaces the commonly used stoves and kerosene lights that produce hazardous smoke and cause a variety of health issues. To date, 50,000 of these products have been distributed. SEWA prioritizes the sustainability of its work by supporting a network of women who are trained in product manufacturing, implementation, and maintenance.

Clean Cookstoves Double as Cell Chargers in the Philippines and China

Jaqueline Nguyen is the founder of Energant, a company that converts heat into electricity with clean-burning cookstoves aptly named KleanKook. Through her 2014 CGI University commitment and the work of Energant, Nguyen hopes to provide people in disaster-prone areas of the Philippines with this technology that not only uses renewable energy to accomplish the daily task of cooking, but also harnesses the excess heat to provide electricity for basic utility needs. Currently, Energant is piloting 10 wood- and coal-fueled models of the stove in the Philippines to identify how best to engineer a more resilient, robust technology that will stand the test of time and outlast natural disasters. "We realized how crucial it is to not only design a user-friendly stove in terms of usability when the stove is functional, but also to design one in terms of ease of repair," says Nguyen. 

The KleanKook model allows users to plug their cellphones into the stoves and charge them from the heat produced during cooking. The stove thus creates a clean and affordable energy source, while also preventing people from inhaling the harmful smoke caused by cooking fires.

Meals made in rural areas of the philippines are often cooked over open flames, exposing families to hazardous smoke and fossil fuel emissions. PHOTO CREDIT: ENERGANT

The Energant team has also moved into China with a second pilot version of the KleanKook stove called KleanKook 2 (K2). K2 is the team's 2015 CGI University commitment and differs from the original model by using a mixture of biomass waste and trash briquettes to fuel the stoves. With the K2 model, Energant hopes to take their product to the next level, continuing to develop stoves that are an effective daily household item that saves people money and preserves the environment.   

green homes Empower hopi and navajo communities in the united states

At CGI America 2014, Community Rebuilds launched a CGI commitment called Rebuilding Sustainable Communities in the Southwest, which addresses the critical lack of housing infrastructure on Hopi and Navajo reservations. The commitment aims to build 16 new, green housing units fitted with the most sustainable design and energy-saving technologies.

Hopi workers construct a new green housing unit. PHOTO CREDIT: The Natural Building Interns of Hopi Tutskwa Permaculture

The construction of the units will include an earth-friendly design that is comprised of sustainable materials and straw bale infrastructure. The natural insulation of the straw bales decreases energy consumption and utility expenses. In addition, the homes will be self-sustainable buildings, powered by harvested rainwater and solar panels.

To build the homes, Community Rebuilds will tap the local community for construction jobs, providing 56 community members with employment opportunities and establishing responsible stewardship of the homes. In addition, the project has hired a number of women into construction jobs, enabling them to enter a historically male-dominated industry.