Polluting fuels for cooking pose serious health issues worldwide.
In 2012, the World Health Organization linked 4.3 million premature deaths that occur annually to inhaling carbon monoxide and other matter from biomass cook stoves used for traditional cooking. The deaths mainly occur among children and women.
Adopting advanced burning cook stoves built for efficient and clean combustion of biomass fuels, or use of clean fuels such as LPG can minimize exposure to such health or life risks.
Every year, Earth Day is celebrated on April 22, and 2020 marked the initiative’s 50 years anniversary. On that day, individuals volunteer to take part in events aimed at saving the environment.
The initiative has helped flora and fauna flourish, improved air quality and reduced CO2 levels. The efforts have done wonders for Mother Earth.
Despite the big efforts made on Earth Day to protect the environment, you can make smaller lifestyle or habit changes at home to help save the planet.
For example, you can make your kitchen eco-friendly and healthy in the following ways:
- Using non-toxic chemicals
- Eating green foods
- Adopting energy-efficient habits
- Deploying energy-efficient food preparation processes
- Utilizing kitchen equipment made from sustainable materials
The right choices aren’t just good for Mother Earth, but also your pocket. Turn your kitchen into a greener gourmet using fridge to store leftovers, preparing eco-friendly meals and cleaning up using safe procedures and organic cleaners.
Is Charcoal Earth Friendly?
Charcoal, according to Global Citizen, an anti-poverty group, is made from wood. Ordinary wood obtained from trees is covered with soil to minimize oxygen in the combustion environment.
The process of burning wood under low oxygen conditions eliminates methane, water, tar, and hydrogen from the wood. It creates small “char” chunks comprising of mostly pure carbon.
Rural and urban households in Africa have used charcoal for heating and cooking since time immemorial. Charcoal is easier to use and cleaner than firewood in the eyes of the African consumer. It’s also more readily available and cheaper than electricity or gas.
The use of charcoal for cooking is popular for the reasons stated above despite rising levels of income in the continent.
The rate of household electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2016, according to the World Bank, was about 42%. Access to electricity varies widely across countries in the continent, with poorer nations having rates as low as 10% or even lower.
On the other hand, the use of charcoal as a cooking fuel is widespread. According to the Dalberg report, most residents of Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, live about 50 to 250 meters from a charcoal vendor.
Charcoal is an Environmental Hazard and Health Emergency
Charcoal consumption greatly threatens human health and the environment.
Deforestation, cutting of trees from forest land, is a serious issue in Africa. Research has shown that many parts of South Africa depleted its fuel wood reserves by 2020.
The consultancy firm, Dalberg, stated that Kenya logs about 10.3 million m3 of wood annually from its forests in the form of firewood and charcoal. The two fuel sources are major drivers of deforestation in the country every year at the rate of 0.3%.
The use of charcoal and wood for fuel and Black Carbon emissions, according to Dalberg, makeup almost 25 million tons of CO2 eq. annually. This is about 40% of the country’s total GHG emissions.
Smoke from stoves and open fires cause about 4.3 million deaths resulting from related diseases, each year. The health damage from burning charcoal and wood as fuel, according to the U.S. administration in 2012, is worse than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined, in terms of death figures.
About 14,300 Kenyans, based on a UN report, die annually from health conditions linked to indoor air pollution.
Women in urban households who cook with charcoal and wood, according to Dalberg, lose almost 0.8-1.3 hours in cooking and 0.3-0.4 hours in cleaning daily. Moreover, women who take time to collect wood in rural areas lose at least 4 years daily in cooking and cleaning.
However, with clean and efficient cooking fuels, the time loss is avoidable.
Despite the health challenges of cooking with charcoal and wood, the demand for charcoal is predicted to continue growing in the future. According to the New York Times, the population of Africa is anticipated to grow and urbanize at a faster rate in the next decades.
Therefore, the demand for charcoal in the continent, according to the United Nations Environment Program, is also expected to double or triple by 2050.
Safer and More Eco-Friendly Charcoal
The different green charcoal brands aim at addressing financial, health, and ecological issues associated with using charcoal as a cooking fuel. Some healthier and greener charcoal solutions for environmental protection include:
- Charcoal made from banana peels or skins
Students use household waste such as leftover food and old banana peels to make eco-friendly charcoal. This is aimed at addressing the rising waste management issue in the city of Douala, Cameroon.
Organic rubbish in streets and other garbage points are collected and processed into clean charcoal. It provides a greener and more cost-effective cooking fuel, an alternative to firewood and charcoal from forests and mangroves.
The coal made from waste also clears rubbish for a clear and greener environment.
- Charcoal made from poop
Entrepreneurs in Kenya use poop to process charcoal. This is aimed at fighting deforestation and its by-products (charcoal and firewood), including health issues. The initiative also prevents waste from being released into waterways to fight pollution.
The companies involved collect human waste and process it into charcoal briquettes. Compounds such as molasses are used to treat the poop and other ingredients used in making the briquettes to give them better smell.
People were initially reluctant to use the green charcoal from poop when they were first manufactured. However, they’ve embraced the green idea for its range of benefits.
- Charcoal made from maize
Ndejje University in Uganda collaborated with Christian Services International, a German not-for-profit organization, to make charcoal briquettes from maize spindles.
The waste biomass from maize is used instead of wood and charcoal from trees to prevent deforestation. Local farmers gather maize cons after shelling maize to sell to the partnership at a small fee instead of throwing it away.
The maize spindles are processed and converted into charcoal briquettes to enhance energy efficiency and fight deforestation.
- Charcoal made from coffee pulp
Countries such as Ethiopia have already cut a significant part of its forests, leaving no trees for charcoal and firewood to fuel cooking. The trees were also fell to support the nation’s industrial production.
Coffee beans re used to make charcoal briquettes from its pulp. The coffee briquettes support heating and cooking. And, the fuel helps save the few woods remaining in the country.
- Charcoal made from sugarcane waste
A young entrepreneur in Kenya produces charcoal briquettes from sugarcane waste. Sugarcane is grown in the country in plenty.
Sucrose is obtained from sugarcane when manufacturing sugar, leaving behind the cane fibers to rot. The entrepreneur uses the leftover fibers to process sugar-sweet coal that’s cheaper, greener and cleaner that traditional charcoal.
The coal made from sugarcane also burns longer.
- Other charcoal alternatives
Apart from the various solutions devised to replace charcoal and firewood, you can use propane or gas as an alternative to charcoal. The range of coal options above are an alternative to gas and propane, especially if you want to grill your foods.