The CampStove from BioLite Produces A Smokeless Fire That Can Cook Meals & Boil Water In Minutes In A Sustainable Manner.
SmartDesign, BioLite, Victor Papanek, kickstarter
MobileRVing: The Buzz, Your Outdoor Lifestyle Insider, Written by Andrew Malo.
Cooking Off The Grid With BioLite
The Diverse and Altruistic Company's Parallel Innovation Gave Way To Revolutionary Products That Create A Smokeless Fire To Cook Meals & Boil Water In Minutes In A Sustainable Manner, Something Cost-Effective And Modernizing To Developing Countries
It's easy to see the trend towards sustainable innovation in many consumer products and outdoor lifestyle is no stranger to it. In fact, outdoor product designers have the advantage of making products that are both useful in the outdoor market, as well as being useful for people around the world that are in need of sustainable goods to live. One such company is BioLite. And the product in focus: CampStove. In its newest 2.0 version, the CampStove produces a smokeless fire capable of cook meals & boiling water in minutes via only a burning wood heat source, while turning that heat into usable electricity. It features 50% more power, an integrated battery, and an updated LED dashboard for improved control and feedback.
BioLite is the brainchild of its two founders: Jonathan and Alec. Jonathan and Alec met at Smart Design in New York City and their shared interest in sustainable design sparked ideas. "Jonathan has been breaking stuff and putting it back together since he was a kid taking apart toys and appliances in his parents house," explains Erica Rosen, Director of Marketing for BioLite, "And Alec studied sustainable design under Victor Papanek." Victor Papanek is a famous name in design. He championed a design that was based on "sustainable and humanitarian" needs, according to the New York Times. Though laughed at and disliked by fellow designers in the 70s, his book "Design for the Real World" is one of the most read books on design in the world.
Alec had an idea to create a wood-burning stove that can use its own energy to improve combustion, while Jonathan brought his engineering to the idea. "It started as a nights and weekends project for Alec and Jonathan, tinkering with cans, and whatever metal objects they can find," recalls Rosen, "And they created a product and refined it for 3 years." In 2011, they brought a working prototype to a clean energy conference and "that's when they learned their design had applications far beyond camping." This is when their emerging markets side of the business came into being.
BioLite works in countries throughout the world in an effort to bring clean cooking stoves to families, what they call "emerging markets". Rosen relates, "On a recent trip to Kenya I was visiting a home and our host talked about how HomeStove (the emergng market version of the CampStove) enables them to use an LED light while cooking so they can avoid kerosene and her daughter doesn't get burnt anymore. She mentioned it almost in passing but for me it was such a profound comment; imagine having to have your arm burnt each time you needed to light the room to cook your meal?"
BioLite tracks their progress of their campaign and also has statistics to show its importance. On their website, they state that 3 billion people cook on smokey open wood fires and 4 million people die annually from these fires - more than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. Since the HomeStove burns clean without smoke, uses less wood, and provides electricity, this offsets a lot of issues. They have affected over 100,000 people so far in their effort to help.
They also have inspiring stories of impact on their website. One story is of two BioLite ambassadors, Erin and Mehedi, who bike 10,000 miles from Mexico to Argentina. They biked every day and utilize BioLite products to completely sustain themselves off grid - i.e. cook hot meals and charge their GPS and cameras - and posted their progress on instagram (@erinazouz).
How does BioLite get the money to do this? From a variety of sources, but it starts with designing a device. For example, the BaseCamp stove, a bigger version than CampStove ideal for backyard fire pits or tailgating, got its funding with help of a kickstarter campaign. Though the goal was set for $45,000, they raised over 1 million dollars for development. After designing and manufacturing their products, they have a business model of Parallel Innovation. "Through Parallel Innovation we are able to generate near-term revenue from our affluent outdoor market customers and reinvest that into building the runway we need to figure out the complex challenges of building a sustainable market in sub-Saharan Africa," Rosen explains.
From a company that started with 2 guys and an idea, it is impressive to see it's currently a company of 35 people with a fully-functioning burn lab. One of the perks Rosen enjoys is the adventure sabbatical. “We go on an annual trip every year to a remote island and live completely off the grid for a few days. It is a great way to put our products to the test,” she explains. She recalls that on a recent trip, they had their CampStove going and a campfire going and, “we kept looking at the CampStove, then at the fire, then at the CampStove, and then, we asked ourselves, could we make a better campfire...I think we can!” The newest product they are working on is the FirePit - a campfire with power and a slogan that says “see fire, not smoke.” Due in May of 2018, its kickstarter campaign has raised over 2 million dollars opposed to the original goal of $100,000.
A graduate of Northeastern Illinois University in Education, Andrew has taught for the past decade in Chicago, New Mexico, and Japan. He enjoys tinkering with trucks and motorcycles, woodworking, reading and computer programming.
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