Today we are celebrating World Environment Day, an annual event created by the United Nations in 1974 to encourage worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. Since its creation, the event has grown to become a global movement for public outreach for the need of environmental action. Each World Environment Day has a new theme and is hosted in a different country where the official celebrations take place – this years host is China, with the theme of air pollution.
Summarised from the World Environment Day website, the main source of household air pollution is the indoor burning of fossil fuels and biomass-based resources, such as firewood, to cook. Around 3.8 million premature deaths are caused by indoor air pollution annually, most in the developing world. Despite efforts to increase the prevalence of cleaner burning stoves and cleaner fuel, 3 billion continue to use solid fuels on open fires.
Across the areas we work in in developing countries, we typically come across households in rural communities using highly inefficient three-stone fires for their cooking and boiling of unsafe water for purification. These traditional fires require large amounts of firewood to do only a small amount of work due to their inefficient nature.
As a result of burning large quantities of firewood on these open fires, large volumes of carbon emissions are released contributing to climate change, as well as harmful pollutants causing significant health problems to those regularly exposed to them, such as the elderly, women and children.
Our improved cookstove carbon projects involve introducing improved technologies, such as improved cookstoves, into households through community buy-in schemes. With the help from our local partners, communities are trained how to use and maintain the stoves effectively and educated on the dangers of indoor air pollution and how the new stoves are helping tackle it. Our safe water projects involve rehabilitating safe water sources, to reduce the amount of firewood burned on three-stone fires by removing the need to purify unclean water.
Our projects directly contribute to tackling Sustainable Development Goal 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing. Through robust monitoring and calculations within our cookstove projects and certain water projects, we determine the reduction in household air pollution following the project implementation, which are certified by the verification body Gold Standard.
Millions of people are continuing to suffer from preventable diseases and many are dying prematurely – World Environment Day is helping raise awareness of this widespread problem and drive incentive for action. Through focused, community initiatives involving education and key training, the adoption of cleaner, more modern stoves and rehabilitation of broken safe water sources can reduce the risk of illnesses and save lives.