$5 Solar Powered Kyoto Box Wins HP Climate Change Challenge


John 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