Marin campaign promotes clean cookstoves for Ugandans

By Adrian Rodriguez August 30, 2016

Dee Lawrence, co-founder of Cool Effect, a new Greenbrae-based nonprofit, says simple, small actions can lead to effective carbon reduction.

Lawrence, who started Cool Effect with her husband Richard, said there is such a thing as carbon done correctly. “And when you do carbon correctly, it benefits people and the environment.”

On Saturday, the couple launched a joint campaign with Will Hutchinson — co-owner of Proof Lab, a Mill Valley skate and surf shop — to fund Ugastove, a carbon-reduction project in Kampala, Uganda.

The campaign seeks enough money to subsidize 100 low-emission cookstoves, making them affordable for Ugandans.

“It’s such a no-brainer, (an) easy way to make a positive contribution in a developing country,” Hutchinson said. “It’s not complicated; it’s not too expensive.”

Hutchinson, who interned with the Ugastove project four years ago, said that in Uganda, more than 90 percent of the population still cooks over open fires using charcoal or wood, including a majority of hotel and restaurant kitchens.

This contributes to more than 4 million premature deaths annually caused by inhalation of noxious smoke, according to a Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves report.

Hutchinson described the average stove as “a coffee can.”

“It’s a big problem in Uganda, both because of deforestation, and it creates a huge amount of carbon dioxide output — the soot — which is the worst type of carbon dioxide in terms of global warming and indoor air pollution,” he said.

The Ugastove product is insulated with a clay liner that allows the fire to burn twice as hot and use half as much fuel. Hutchinson said the familiar frame makes it easy for people to adopt the cookstove.

The Ugastove cuts emissions by nearly 60 percent per household and saves families an average of $110 annually. That can be about 20 percent of their income.

The local nonprofit leaders hope to continue the trend.

“We know carbon is one of the biggest issues that is contributing to climate change,” said Jodi Manning, director of marketing for the nonprofit.

Cool Effect also offers ways to contribute to six other carbon-reduction projects, including a similar stove project in Malawi and an initiative in Bagepalli, India, that converts animal waste into power.

The cause resonated with Corte Madera surfer Tom Mathews, who stumbled upon the Saturday launch party when he was shopping for a new wet suit at Proof Lab.

“The greenhouse effect is visible in Marin County,” he said. “I think here we have an audience that is pretty plugged in. You can see it all along the beaches. It’s a difficult, but important job and I wanted to help out.”

The campaign netted 73 contributions Saturday. For the next week, Proof Lab is offering a 10 percent discount to customers who contribute at the Mill Valley store.