Social Entrepreneurs are Tackling One of the World’s Biggest Problems – Cooking

Amanda West is the Marketing and Communications Director for EcoZoom. She holds a Masters in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from the University of Oregon. Amanda started with EcoZoom in April of 2011.

If you were going to list off the top threats to public health and the environment, you probably wouldn't have cooking on that list. But, three billion people - half the world's population - rely on biomass and charcoal for their daily cooking needs. These fuels are often burned indoors on open fires or dangerous unimproved stoves, resulting in two million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization (that's as many as malaria and tuberculosis combined). The full social and environmental impact of cooking starts to be seen when you add 200,000 deaths a year caused by burns, hours per day spent gathering fuel, rising deforestation rates and the emission of thousands of tons of climate changing gases into the equation.

We, the founders of EcoZoom, saw this huge global problem and decided to take a for-profit business approach to solving it. EcoZoom is a certified B Corp making clean cookstoves accessible and affordable in developing countries. We believe that people of any economic status should have access to intelligently designed cooking products that will improve their health, income, and environment. By choosing to scale our response to the scope of the problem through a for-profit business model, we can get our stoves to more people who need them.

Our stoves use up to 60% less fuel and emit 70% less smoke and harmful emissions than an open fire, benefitting both people and the environment. They are easy to use, protect women and children from burns, and have a commercial finish that is aesthetically pleasing to cooks across the world.

EcoZoom stoves work because we combine laboratory research with the realities on the ground to create them. We will private label or customize our products for local cooking practices and traditional foods, depending on the market. Our base products can be easily modified to fit larger pot sizes or adapt to other cooking practices, which is key for cook acceptance and uptake.

One of our stoves can have a huge impact over its lifespan. It can:
-Prevent a family from inhaling smoke equivalent to -14,600 packs of cigarettes,
-Save women and children 1,300 hours of time of gathering fuel or,
-Save $280 of income from not paying for fuel,
-Save 33 trees and,
-Prevent the emission of 12.5 tons of CO2 and other harmful gases.

To get stoves to people in need, we form relationships with in-country distribution partners and work with them to maximize the impact of their projects. We've sold over 50,000 of these clean, improved cookstoves in our 13 months of existence, generating $1.4 million in revenue. Not bad considering our only investment in the company has been $40,000 from the founders and their families.

We're proud of the success we've had as a business opportunity AND as an impact opportunity. Check it out and see how you can make cooking safe for someone in the developing world,

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