How the Poor are Saving the Planet (and how you can too)!

Superstove, Improved Clean Cookstove Program, Laos, SNV Lao PDR, ARMI

While many of us are procrastinating over just what low-carbon lifestyle changes we could make, many villagers are simply getting on with it! How? Through clean cookstoves, energy from waste, community renewables and other simple, effective choices.

Clean cooking for moms!

Lao PDR is a beautiful country in Southeast Asia, filled with running rivers and mountains. It’s also a country where 30% of the population live in poverty, according to the World Bank.

A local non-profit, the Association for Rural Mobilisation and Improvement, in collaboration with international NGOs Oxfam and SNV, is bringing clean cookstoves to villages across the country. They train local artisans to manufacture these stoves, and create networks of entrepreneurs to market them across the country. As of mid-2015, over 50,000 of these “Super Stoves” have been purchased. There’s even a cute mascot and a cookbook of local recipes just for these stoves!

What makes them so super?

Superstove Logo used in Clean Cookstove Program in Laos PDR
Superstove! The mascot for the Lao Improved Cookstove Programme

This isn’t just happening in Laos, it’s a global phenomenon! There are stoves that can charge your phone while you cook, like Biolite’s stoves in Africa, or larger stoves designed for mom-and-pop eateries, like Sustaintech’s Tea Stoves across India.Super Stoves use around 20% less fuel, compared to traditional stoves. This means fewer trees chopped down, less fuel burned, and up to 1 tonne less of carbon dioxide emissions each year for every stove. What else? Faster cooking times, less money and time spent on getting fuel, and best of all, less toxic black smoke inhaled by moms and kids in the home.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves reports that in 2014, over 12 million household clean cookstoves were distributed worldwide.

Ban NalaoMs Khanthong, 46 years old 6 more people live in the household Ms Khanthong is a housewive and the only one that cooks in the house, two times in the morning and in the evening. She cooks typical Lao foods. The new stove has been in use for 9 mo
Using the Superstove in Laos

Poo power to the rescue!

In Vietnam, small farmers are putting poo to good use, installing household biogas digestors to create energy from waste.

These digestors use a simple brick design for airtight domes built into the ground. Underground pipes channel waste from chickens and pigs into the dome, where waste is digested by bacteria over several weeks. As biogas is produced, pressure builds up. This pushes biogas out through tubes connected to gas burners for smoke-free cooking, infrared heaters for keeping baby chicks warm, and even lamps for studying at night!

Local mason building a dome biodigestor

The bonus prize? Toilets! With a biogas digestor, women and girls no longer have to wait until dark to relieve themselves out in the woods. Around two-thirds of homes with a digestor also choose to build and connect a toilet, keeping women healthy and safe.

The National Biogas Programme, managed by the government, has constructed over 145,000 digestors. Similar biogas programmes run in many other countries, including Cambodia, Nepal, Indonesia, China and India.

Villages, everywhere!

Communities are choosing clean energy through micro-hydro schemes or solar PV. They’re choosing clean lighting through buying solar lamps, and clean water through buying ceramic water filters that don’t need fuel for boiling.

Clean water, clean electricity, and clean cooking – good for the village, good for the planet!

What about me?

Just like what’s happening in these villages, many everyday actions that are good for the planet are also good for us! Less red meat? Good for our hearts. Less vehicle pollution? Good for our lungs. Less energy wasted in the home? Good for our wallet. Less climate change? Good for us, great for our kids.

Today, it’s never been easier, or more fun, to get going! Start with 3 easy steps:

#1: Get up to speed!

Forget about the doom and gloom headlines. Head instead to NASA’s excellent climate resource website.  Enjoy cartoons? “Little Climate: We need to talk about climate disruption” is a new book of cheeky cartoons that cover the science, impacts and solutions, based on the latest United Nations climate reports.

Extract Little Climate

Catch documentaries like’s rousing “Disruption” or “Switch”, a practical documentary on the energy transition we need to orchestrate.

#2: Start talking about it!

One reason why so many of us might still question climate change is because so few of our friends and family actually talk about it! Research by Yale University in 2015 found that only 1 in 25 Americans hear people they know talk about climate change once a week.

Research on “cognitive dissonance” also found that what we think about climate change depends on how it would affect the relationships we hold dear. If choosing to act on climate change means betraying our cultural values and the people we share these with, research finds that most people might find it easier to just stay silent.

The good news? The more we hear about climate change from people we connect with, the more we start to take it seriously!

That’s what More Than Scientists, an initiative by The Climate Change Education Project, does. Climate scientists are at the forefront of understanding just how we are changing our planet. First and foremost though, they’re mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Just like us. Choose from over 200 videos to hear these scientists speak from the heart about what it all means to them.

#3: Take everyday action!

There are many simple ways to get started, and you don’t have to go it alone! Join your local green group, or grassroots organizations like Take part in the global movement that is Meatless Monday. Work with your neighbours to start recycling. At home, make it fun for the family to reduce food waste, start doing the laundry on a cold cycle and grow your own vegetables!

We’re all part of the problem, but you know what? This also gives us the chance to be part of something bigger! Right here, right now, there’s still time to act for a brighter future.

What about you? What actions do you take that are part of the solution too?

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Author: Little Climate

On climate change, communication, and climate action! Because who says fighting for our #climate can't be fun? Follow us on Facebook to learn more!

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