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YES! Picks: Rocket Stoves

An alternative to traditional charcoal or gas grills, a rocket stove is a more sustainable method for outdoor cooking.
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Rocket Stove, photo by fishermansdaughter

When Americans pull out their grills for the traditional summer barbecue, a debate will be reignited among those with a taste for outdoor cooking and sustainability. Charcoal or gas? Inevitably, the charcoalites will find themselves in a smoky corner arguing that charcoal from sustainably harvested trees is carbon neutral, while the gas-heads will make the argument that a cleaner burn outweighs the non-renewability of fossil fuel. So,which is the better option?

Neither. Try a rocket stove instead!

Approximately half the world’s population cooks with solid fuel—a significant contributor to carbon emissions, deforestation, and serious health conditions from inhaling pollutants. The Aprovecho Research Center set out to address these problems in the developing world, but the rocket stove design is applicable anywhere.

One Aprovecho study showed that with sustainably harvested wood, a rocket stove produced only 41 percent of a traditional three-stone fire’s harmful emissions. A charcoal stove produced 61 percent more emissions than a traditional three-stone fire. This number did not account for emissions from the production of charcoal.

And forget about chopping firewood; the highly efficient design allows you to use twigs and wood scraps from your backyard. The rocket stove’s small air intake and insulated chamber burn fuel at a high temperature, resulting in almost complete combustion, producing little smoke, particulate or emissions. The design can also be adapted to heat a home.

Why not replace your carbon-monster barbecue with a DIY rocket stove this summer? The simplest design on the Aprovecho website uses six adobe bricks. Another requires large and small tin cans, 4-inch stove pipe, a brick, and a grill top. There are more instructions for making simple devices you can try for low-carbon cooking.


Robert MellingerRobert Mellinger wrote this article for Beyond Prisons, the Summer 2011 issue of YES! Magazine. Robert is an editorial intern at YES!


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