Amy Banzaert, Alumni
PhD Mechanical Engineering
"When I’m not getting covered in charcoal dust or researching the best way to process charcoal, I like to go on long walks around greater Boston with my husband and our son…."
- 1.5 million people die each year due to breathing smoke from indoor cooking fires.
- Respiratory infections are the leading cause of death of young children worldwide.
- Deforestation rates are increasing 6-10% in large part due to the need for wood for cooking fuel, in areas that are already 80-98% deforested.
- In some areas cooking fuel will account for at least 10% of a family’s income.
These facts are surprising, disturbing, and motivating.
This is the reason I have chosen to research an alternative type of charcoal made from agricultural waste that can be used as cooking fuel in regions where poverty and deforestation are severe. One such area is Haiti. In Haiti the 98% deforestation rate is responsible for landslides and contaminated water supplies. Further concerns including poverty and health issues are alarming. Haiti has a 70% underemployment rate and most Haitians make less than $2 per day.
The agricultural waste charcoal business I envision can address all three of these issues: the charcoal will be more affordable than wood charcoal, create less dangerous smoke than wood fires, and save trees from being cut down for fuel. I intend to use the findings to help establish a company in Haiti that manufactures this charcoal.