Where There's Smoke, There's Envirofit

SOCAP Global October 22, 2009

What’s the leading cause of death in children under five?
“Waterborne disease? Diarrhea? No…It’s breathing the smoke from indoor cooking fires,” explains MIT Engineering Professor Amy Smith, MIT Engineering Professor in a lecture she gave at the 2006 TED conference. “Can’t we make cleaner burning cooking stoves?” she asks.
EnviroFit has not only chimed in with a resounding yes, but has begun a campaign to sell affordable clean cookstoves to the three billion people around the world threatened by death from indoor air pollution. I had the chance to Skype with Tim Bauer, Envirofit’s Vice-President of Operations, to learn about their efforts to eliminate this relatively unknown but deadly challenge to human life.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Envirofit from Teju Ravilochan on Vimeo.

Video Interview Table of Contents:

  1. What does Envirofit do? (0:01-0:55)
  2. Tell us about Envirofit’s two principal technologies. (0:56-3:42)
  3. How did Envirofit succeed in making its cookstove so affordable? (3:43-5:12)
  4. Why is Envirofit structured as a non-profit organization? (5:13-6:59)
  5. How does Envirofit earn revenue to cover its costs? (7:00-7:39)
  6. What will be the keys to scaling Envirofit outside of India? (7:40-10:05)
  7. How will Envirofit broaden its scale to millions of customers? (10:06-11:51)
  8. How does Envirofit market to $1/day customers in rural areas? (11:52-12:51)
  9. What advice do you have for aspiring social entrepreneurs? (12:52-14:49)

Envirofit Profile. Based just down the road from the Unreasonable team in Fort Collins, Colorado, Envirofit began its operations in late 2003. The non-profit enterprise is dedicated to developing market-based solutions, in the form of affordable technologies, to major environmental problems for traditionally overlooked customers.
Envirofit’s Technologies. Envirofit is addressing problems caused by air pollution by using two technologies that not only reduce emissions, but improve health and income of their customers: the 2-stroke retrofit and the clean cookstove.
The retrofit is designed to improve the efficiency of 2-stroke engines which power motorcycles, rikshaws and tuk-tuks, which each produce the pollution output of 50 modern automobiles. Envirofit’s retrofit reduces fuel consumption of these vehicles by 35-40% and reduces emissions by about 90%. Read more about the benefits generated from fitting two-stroke vehicles with the retrofit here.
In addition to its retrofit, Envirofit has developed an energy-efficient, affordable clean cookstove. To date, Envirofit has sold over 80,000 of these stoves in India, a country that houses 28% of the global potential market. The total global market, comprised of people who cook each day using solid fuels, constitutes half the world’s population. Envirofit’s cookstoves, built to work outdoors to eliminate the risk of indoor air pollution, reduce emissions by up to 80%, use up to 60% less fuel, reduce cooking cycle time by up to 50%, and come with a five-year warranty. Read more about the impressive impact of Envirofit’s cooking stoves here.
Financial Model. Envirofit, a registered non-profit organization, relies upon foundation grants and charitable contributions to fund the intensive research & development but ultimately hopes to sustain its operations through revenues generated selling its technologies. Envirofit targets customers who earn between $2-$5, and are able to extend their reach to lower income brackets by partnering with microfinance organizations. Customers in this income brackets find Envirofit’s cookstove, for example, highly affordable, particularly because of the benefits it provides for income and health. A cookstove costs Rs. 1300 (roughly $20), which is about two weeks’ salary for a customer living on $2-$5/day.
Tim Bauer’s Bio. As Vice-President of Opeartions for Envirofit, Tim is responsible for leading the day-to-day activities of the organization. He completed both his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University, where he worked in the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory for six years on clean engine and alternative fuel technologies. He has extensive experience in fundraising, international sourcing, cost analysis, partner and supplier management, in-country operations development and staff management, as well as marketing/public relations. He and Envirofit co-founder Nathan Lorenz were recently named Heroes of the Environment by Time Magazine.

Thanks so much to Tim Bauer for patiently answering our endless questions! Learn more about Envirofit at www.envirofit.org!

written by: Teju Ravilochan (Unreasonable Institute)



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