ETHOS Conference Brings Clean Cookstove Sector Together in Seattle

A throwback to 2005 when I first started working with Trees, Water & People's Clean Cookstove Program as an intern.
A throwback to 2005 when I first started working with Trees, Water & People’s Clean Cookstove Program as an intern.

by Sebastian Africano, International Director

Almost 13 years ago, a fringe group of scientists, development practitioners, and academics came together to coordinate a response to an epidemic that claims over 4 million lives a year. That epidemic stems from the health problems caused by dirty indoor air – largely a result of cooking inside with solid fuels like firewood, charcoal, and dung.

The group that emerged from these meetings was named Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service, or ETHOS, and has since helped catalyze a global movement based on the simple notion that cooking shouldn’t kill. I attended the third ETHOS conference held in Kirkland, WA in 2005, and I have just returned from the 13th, marking ten years since I entered the clean cookstove sector.

Trees, Water & People (TWP) and our partner’s understanding of how to design cookstoves appropriately, how to test them, how to increase adoption, and how to improve their durability has increased exponentially in the past ten years. Where there were only a handful of scattered groups dedicated to moving this work forward, there is now a Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, pushing to deploy 100 million cookstoves worldwide by the year 2020, with endorsements from public figures such as Hillary Clinton, Julia Roberts and Chef José Andrés.

Playing with fire (testing cookstoves) at ETHOS 2015.
Playing with fire (testing cookstoves) at ETHOS 2015.

While some groups focus on mass fabrication of cookstoves for export, other organizations like TWP focus on designing locally appropriate solutions using local materials, and creating jobs in the process. Advances in monitoring and evaluation and testing have taught us to gather evidence from the field, demonstrating how these technologies truly reduce firewood consumption, exposure to pollutants, and carbon emissions in the atmosphere, slowing the acceleration of climate change. With three billion people still depending on solid fuels for daily cooking needs, all involved are hitting the gas pedal to increase the quality, quantity, and impact of the clean cookstove sector.

In TWP’s case, this work gets done when donors like you support our Clean Cookstove Program with your generous donations. Just as we in the U.S. have a wide array of safe cooking technologies in our kitchens (count them!) for our varied cooking tasks, we believe that families living on the economic margins of society should have the same safe and clean options, even if they continue to use biomass fuels. So thank you for supporting this great work, and for following our progress in tackling the silent killer in the kitchen.