Last edited: 15 October 2019
By using the renewable and emissions-free energy from the sun, solar cooking does not have the negative environmental impacts and requirements of traditional cooking methods, which include air pollution, exhausting natural resources for solid fuel (wood, charcoal, etc.), and spending significant time gathering and/or processing solid fuels. Instead, solar cooking allows the user to:
- Cook without emitting harmful emissions which contribute to climate change
- Reduce deforestation by minimizing the need for solid fuel
In many parts of the world, developing countries in particular, a three-stone fire—where a pot or pan is placed atop three-similarly sized stones surrounding a fire—remains the most common method of cooking. These stoves are incredibly inefficient as they require large amounts of wood and generate a relatively small amount of useable heat since the majority of the heat escapes before reaching the cooking pot. As a result, the user is required to either purchase a significant amount of fuel, which is expensive, or gather fuel on a regular basis, which is time-consuming and possibly dangerous due to the need to leave the safety of the user’s home or village. The latter often leads to significant deforestation in the surrounding area, the impacts of which include erosion, destruction of animal habitats, and the loss of the carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration which trees provide.
Three-stone fires also emit significant amounts other gases such as carbon monoxide, which stays in the atmosphere even longer than CO2 and is an even greater contributor to climate change. These stoves also emit particulate matter, including black carbon, which not only contributes to climate change, but respiratory disease as well.
While inexpensive to construct, the cooking efficiency of three-stone fires is very low, as only roughly 10% of the heat generated is transferred to the pot with the rest being lost. This requires solid fuel to be purchased and/or gathered frequently, leading to environmental degradation from charcoal production and the stripping trees and other vegetation.
Use of natural resources
As previously described, traditional cooking fires are extremely inefficient. Even “fuel-efficient” or “improved” cookstoves have been shown to use comparable amounts of solid fuel to three-stone fires in certain situations and do not significantly reduce black carbon emissions in the field. When sources of fuelwood begin to disappear from overuse, smaller bits of foliage often start to be collected until they too are depleted. Constant and widespread harvesting of biomass leaves areas barren, which reduces and can even eliminate the means for natural regrowth.
The emissions from three-stone fires pose not only a health risk to the user and bystanders, but they contribute to global climate change as well. Black carbon and methane are all major contributors to climate change and are the primary emissions of open cooking fires.
Due to their significant fuel use, the three-stone fires used by three billion people around the world present dangers to the local environments where they are used and contribute to global climate change. One solution is to use clean and efficient solar cookers whenever possible which only require solar energy to operate. Solar cookers benefit the environment by:
- Using clean, renewable, and readily available solar energy as fuel
- Preserving natural resources by not requiring the use of wood or other biomass fuels to cook
- Not producing dangerous emissions which pollute local environments and contribute to climate change
- September 2019: Clean Cooking: The Forgotten Link in Universal Energy Access - International Policy Digest
- Economic benefits of solar cooking
- Health benefits of solar cooking
- Household air pollution
- ↑ A Comparison of Wood-Burning Cookstoves for Uganda: Testing and Development (Improved Biomass Cooking Stoves)
- ↑ Health and Climate-Relevant Pollutant Concentrations from a Carbon-Finance Approved Cookstove Intervention in Rural India (American Chemical Society)
- ↑ Household air pollution and health (World Health Organization)