$5 Solar Powered Kyoto Box Wins HP Climate Change Challenge

boxJohn Bohmer's Kyoto Box won the $75,000 Financial Times and HP Climate Change Challenge today thanks to an ultra-cheap and simple design with the potential to provide cooked food and clean water to billions. The $5 solar-powered consists of a black inner cardboard box and a silver foil-covered outer box that concentrate enough heat to cook food and boil water. Bohmer's invention could be a major upgrade for the two billion people that still use CO2-emitting firewood as fuel.

The Norwegian-born inventor's box, named after the international treaty designed to stop global warming, has already gone into production in a Nairobi, Kenya factory with the capacity to produce 2.5 million boxes each month. Bohmer envisions the eventual mass production of an equally cheap version of the Kyoto Box made from recycled plastic.

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Bohmer is hoping that the cooker will be eligible for carbon credits. The yearly profit from each stove would be passed on to the user, allowing the box to pay for itself.

Other finalists in the Financial Times competition include Carbonscape (an industrial microwave that "fixes" carbon sucked out of the atmosphere), Deflecktor (a lorry wheel cover that reduces drag),  Mootral (a feed additive for cows that curbs methane production), and Evaporating Tiles (an indoor cooling system that evaporates water within hollow tiles). Ultimately, though, the Kyoto Box won out because of its potential for cheap mass manufacturing and the ability to affect billions of lives. 

UPDATE: A reader points out that the cardboard solar cooker idea is not an original one. Jewish World Watch has been sending cardboard cookers to refugees in Chad for over two years, and instructions for DIY cookers have been online even longer. So what gives? Why did the Kyoto Box win over more original ideas?

Related: Climate Chance Competition Finalists Compete for HP-Sponsored Prize

[Via Financial Times]


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  • Shannon Carr-Shand

    Thanks for all the comments regarding the Kyoto Box winning the FT Climate Challenge Competition. There have been a few posts pointing out that the solar-powered oven is not a new idea. The point of the competition was not to reward a eureka moment but to help an innovative approach to climate change reach the market. As Kyoto Energy founder and competition-winner Jon Bøhmer acknowledges in his company literature and on his application, the concept of solar cooking has been around since the eighteenth century.

    There are other versions of solar cookers available on the web and there are also detailed explanations of how to make a version of a similar device. What distinguishes this approach is that the cooker will be mass-produced cheaply in existing factories, the finished item is to be flat-packed for bulk transportation to end users and is extremely cheap at $6.

    The $75,000 prize money is going to enable Kyoto Energy to test durable, plastic versions of the cooker with 10,000 people currently burning fossil fuels to clean their water and heat their food. The expert judges and the thousands of members of the public who voted for the Kyoto Box agreed that this simple idea offered the best opportunity amongst the five short-listed ideas for an innovation to help tackle climate change on a big scale.

    Please see the press release and our site for more information on the competition and its objectives.

    Shannon Carr-Shand, Forum for the Future

  • Lola Kim

    I think what makes this special and worthy of the award despite not being an original idea is that this model is more affordable and can readily be made by the local people. Here in the Philippines, a vast percentage of the population cook using coal. A large bag of coal that will last a family for 3 week is about the same price as the Kyoto Box which makes the Kyoto Box a very good investment for poor Filipinos and The Jewish World Watch solar cooker is twice the price.

  • Carel Two-Eagle

    Phenomenal! Incredible! And it's something I've been building for at least a decade, although I never gave any thought to selling it. I used it to teach my grandkids creative thinking. I think someone owes this Indn grandma some money (which I will use to get my company - Indian Maid Products, Inc. - back in her markets the way she ought to be, instead of struggling the way we've had to). No, I do not say any of this tongue-in-cheek.

  • Daniel Torres

    Ariel, yes, I think we're slowly starting to move in the right direction.

  • Ariel Schwartz

    @Daniel - Agreed. I think this HP/FT contest is evidence that we have at least slightly rearranged our priorities.

  • Daniel Torres

    I think we should be COMPLETELY OUTRAGED at the priorities we have set as a planet when an invention as simple as a cardboard box saves lives. Just as one example, what could NASA be doing that is so important (and so costly) that it puts it ahead of saving our own kind? Why put vast amounts of scientific ingenuity to work toward such ambitious a goal as going to Mars before first quenching the thirst of millions of us who have no access to clean water?
    Its up to every one of us to start changing our priorities, don't you think?

  • Guest

    This is what I am talking about; cheap tech for the masses that makes lives better in an instant and provides local economy. These are basic tenets of how we do business at sirius/pureprophet, ltd.

    If you have not yet read our Memorandum at pureprophet.com/wind.html, I suggest you download it and read it! (email to: anoracle@gmail.com to gain an access password for opening the confidential document) We are out to give al the world's people equal access to energy, clean water, and clean food.