Feb 162009
Authors: Natasha Pepperl

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Envirofit, a company that started within CSU’s Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, is addressing the problem of indoor pollution by distributing clean cookstoves to people in third world countries and seeks to broaden its scope to meet growing global needs.

The stoves were designed to reduce toxic emissions and cut fuel consumption in half, thus helping owners to save money and breathe cleaner, less polluted air.

“It’s one of the worst killers in the world,” said Jaime Whitlock, Envirofit marketing and communications manager, referring to indoor air pollution.

Whitlock said the World Health Organization estimates that indoor air pollution kills 1.6 million people each year.

Whitlock said the cookstoves not only reduce toxic emissions by about 80 percent in South India but also save owners money. Before installation, people spent an average of up to 40 percent of their incomes on fuel or four to six hours a day collecting wood to burn.

Each of the stoves costs between $20 and $60, and while the South Indian people subsist on meager salaries, Envirofit representatives said overall money balances out between the cost of the stoves and the money saved from buying less fuel.

The cookstoves also cook food faster and are more sanitary than traditional cooking methods.

Graduate mechanical engineering student Christian L’Orange witnessed the pollution firsthand when he sold the stoves in India.

“(It’s a) real wake-up the first time you see it in person,” L’Orange said of the toxic smoke, which he said caused tears to run down local children’s faces and made breathing difficult.

CSU Vice President of Engineering for Envirofit Nathan Lurenz said the stoves contain a rocket elbow combustion chamber, which controls the mixture of fuel and air so the stoves consume fuel as cleanly as possible.

The chamber is essentially a simple carburetor and works in a way similar to those in car engines to improve combustion, Lurenz explained.

South Indians have, consequently, expressed pride over having the cookstoves in their homes because of their cleanliness, Whitlock said.

Envirofit was started in 2003 after the CSU Engines and Conversion Laboratory teamed up with the CSU College of Business to market one of their inventions in third world countries. This joint project led to the birth of the non-profit organization, according to the company’s Web site.

The company has since sold thousands of cookstoves.

The Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory’s in-depth research also contributed to the stoves’ success, Whitlock said.

He explained that Envirofit prides itself on spending as much time on a product created for Third World use as they would have spent on one developed for application in a developed country.

As for the future, the non-profit company plans to continue to improve its stoves to meet a growing global need, but could turn its attention to distribution in the states.

Whitlock explained that the company evaluated the conditions in other Third World countries and found there are about 500 million stoves needed world-wide.

Though South India is presently Envirofit’s primary market, the company is preparing to broaden its distribution globally to include Latin America, Africa and more of Asia, said Brian Wilson, CSU professor of mechanical engineering and co-founder of Envirofit.

Though it is concentrated on serving third world countries, Whitlock said Envirofit is investigating the possibility of selling their stoves in the U.S.

Staff writer Natasha Pepperl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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