One little solar cooker aims to take a big bite out of climate change. The Kyoto Box, designed by Norwegian entrepreneur Jon Bøhmer, is intended as an alternative for millions of people who burn wood to cook food and boil water. Using energy from the sun can reduce carbon emissions as well as deforestation in countries such as Kenya, where Bøhmer lives and runs his company, Kyoto Energy.
Bøhmer experimented with the concept for a decade, inspired by the simplicity of a solar device invented in 1767 by Swiss physicist Horace-Bénédict de Saussure. The cooker, which consists of two boxes nestled inside each other and topped with Plexiglas to trap the sun’s rays, has evolved from a homemade cardboard contraption to a $6 plastic version that went into mass production this spring.
Environmental benefits aside, the Kyoto Box holds promise for human health, too, by allowing people to effectively boil unsafe drinking water and to avoid harmful smoke inhalation from toiling over sooty wood stoves. Bøhmer is also investigating whether the cookers could eventually pay for themselves or even become a source of income for families, if Kyoto Energy can qualify their use as a source of carbon-offset credits. “As the world gets more and more technically complex,” Bøhmer says, “there is a certain relief about something so basic and direct.”