Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Biolite Tackles "Energy Poverty"

Many families in poverty and low-income communities around the globe use open-indoor cooking wood fires that emit smoke resulting in 4 million deaths annually. They live in what is known as “energy poverty”, which is the lack of resources and availability of electricity and access to power. Many of these communities are surrounded in areas where other forms of fuel can be found besides the traditional use of kerosene, which can be dangerous and detrimental to health. This inequality gave rise to the engineering and design of Biolite stoves. Biolite stoves use a special system that “reduces particulate matter and carbon emissions by up to 90%” and “requires 50% less fuel than a conventional open fire”. Biolite stoves use wood without harmful emissions. In addition, any excess heat is converted to electricity so that individuals may charge their phone or other devices. The brand has expanded to include other products such as cooking accessories, solar panels, lights,, and other fuels forms.

The creativity for Biolite stoves and other products came together when co-founders Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond realized there was a demand and need for fuel efficient sources. They realized the dangers of “energy poverty” by barring people from access to “health, economic opportunity, education, and gender equality”. Thus they formed Biolite stoves which have expanded to include other products but also the journey of the whole company is on the bioliteenergy website. Customers can see the chain-effect and resourcefulness of Biolite products on “The Road to Impact” where co-founders and other company employees blog about the success of the company and educate others on seeing the energy inequalities that our global neighbors face. This form of communication allows a more personable connection from the company to the customers, and shows how much Biolite truly cares about their mission. They also talk about how their mission for Biolite is a consumer model because their attempt at philanthropy could not meet the needs of their customers and business model. By exploring the “Road to Impact” the consumer model has been successful and popular, allowing for more creativity and innovation.

Co-founders Cedar and Drummond met at Smart Design where their instant need for challenging problems brought them to the idea to found Biolite. Cedar worked at an engineering design company, Smart Design, and as a ship engineer for Sea Education Association. Drummond is an avid camper who noticed the issue with fuel being wasted on camping trips but then noticed how many stray branches were left everywhere as potential fuel sources. Drummond has been working at design companies such as Smart Design for over 10 years. With both an engineering and design mind, both founders were able to combine their respective fields to create Biolite as a functional and resourceful product. Their motivation for the company is intrinsic and one of those seeking challenges. They both wishes to solve greater problems that the simple issues they encountered in their day jobs. This kind of motivation stems from an intrinsic need to do more than simply create for reward. In addition, their initial attempt to make Biolite a philanthropic effort speaks more to their intrinsic motivation rather than simply starting the company to become rich. Their effort to connect to their customers and ability to create a diverse network around the globe and cater to the needs of others is an indication of their character and drive to work for a greater good.  


  1. This products highlights the necessary link between creativity and sustainability that we are need for our future. The creators, Johnathan Ceder and Alec Drummond, are a prime example of the collaboration that our future needs. I also really like the idea that you can see the impact of the stoves with their blog. I am curious about their motivation though. Could you also argue that they have extrinsic motivation to help the world in general? I agree that this can be viewed as intrinsic, but viewed from a different angle I believe it could also be extrinsic since they receive a feelings of joy or reward from helping others.

  2. This is a really interesting product! I love when we see products that are created equally by two collaborators. In this case, they both had backgrounds in different fields that were necessary to create the idea / the product. This reminds me of problem-solving--they knew there was an issue and then worked to figure out how to solve it. I wonder if this is more like problem-finding though, or problem-solving from the Sawyer article?

    I disagree with Pat, however, that it is extrinsic motivation. I see feeling joyful from helping others as intrinsic--it seems that they do not do it to feel joy, they do it to help others then receive joy from that.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. This is such a great idea! When I think of a struggling country I often think of a lack of food supply or lack of opportunity, but I often forget that there is also a more encompassing problem which is the lack of available energy. By finding solutions to this problem, like Cedar and Drummond did, the effect could have reaches in multiple facets of an areas development. I definitely agree that there is a very interesting case of collaboration here. Cedar and Drummond worked at the same company, but they had different skills that they combined in order to come up with this product. Drummond seemed to be the more big picture guy since he discovered that using and open fire wastes a lot of energy and Cedar seemed like the person that was able too bring that vision to light because of his engineering background.

  4. There is definitely a trend in this kind of creativity with solving problems in disadvantaged communities with tech solutions. What is concerning me, and I am interested in this with the Biolite that I want to look into, is when the technology is not sustainable and just becomes junk in the community. I wonder how much they do to train people on using and maintaining the Biolite. Either way, creating this solution to the problem killing thousands of people is a valiant effort!


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