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CrowdFunding to Fuel Sustainable Stoves

By Pam Johnson

Published May 24. 2013 3:03PM   Updated May 24. 2013 3:09PM
Courtesy Alex Moscovitz
This photo of villagers being assisted through the efforts of the Carribbean Sustainability Institute appears on the opening page of the Estufa Verde crowdfunding website, organized by Guilford resident Alex Moscovitz. She hopes to raise money for machinery to generate crop residue pellet fuel for sustainable cooking stoves which can better the lives of 500 families in two impoverished Haitian villages.

Through crowdfunding, Guilford's Alex Moscovitz is beating the virtual bushes to underwrite an elegant, sustainable solution to improve lives half a world away.

The Boston College (Class of 2015) undergrad and Guilford High School alumnae has spent the past two years working with Dr. David Addison, founder of the Caribbean Sustainability Institute in the Dominican Republic.

"We are now focusing particularly on two secluded Haitian refugee villages," Moscovitz, a past Person of the Week, explained. "The impoverished families who fill these communities live in bateys that are pushed back amongst the sugar cane fields that cover the area. They survive on the bare minimum, but are full of hope."

To help the people of the villages of Munoz and Ascension, the institute, working in partnership with a local potter, has developed a ceramic gasification cooking stove, the Estufa Verde. The stove can be fueled by burning pelletized sugar cane crop residue.

The fuel drives down CO2 gas emissions and provides a healthier indoor atmosphere for families. Employing fuel pellets also means cutting down less trees to make charcoal for traditional metal stoves (which only last a year or two before needing replacement, Moscovitz noted). Making the stoves from native clay means they can be repaired indefinitely, with cracks fixed using clay from the ground outside villager's homes, said Moscovitz.

In their two years of effort for this project, "…so far, we have created our own unique ceramic gasification stove that is well-suited to the needs of the people, established a free fuel source in the form of sugar cane crop residue from a local sugar cane company, readied production for stoves for the 500 families in the villages, and tested the stoves with a few dozen families," said Moscovitz.

"What we need now is the machinery that transforms the sugar cane into pellets that are then used in the stoves for fuel. I'm working to get this funding through a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo," a website, she told The Courier. "Anyone can help out by making a contribution."

As with any crowdfunding effort, the web-based project fundraiser is up against a deadline – in this case, June 8, 2013. By that time, the group hopes to raise $6,000 to purchase the two machines needed to make the pellet fuel for the stoves: a hammer mill and a pellet mill.

The crowdfunding effort had raised about $1,300 in pledges as of press time. In the event funding falls short, "…I have been researching other methods of making fuel for the stoves," said Moscovitz. "Instead, we will purchase one machine; the hammer mill; to grind up the sugar cane. The sugar cane will then go through a briquette making process, and using simple presses the villagers will turn out small bricks of biomass that will then be used in the stove to cook. This method will involve more people in the business we are creating, is more replicable, and uses less fuel."

To learn more or to make a contribution, visit http://igg.me/at/estufa-verde/x/3035730 by June 8, 2013.

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