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january 2017

Fighting climate change and feeding kids one Wonderbag at the time

South African companies are increasingly concerned about climate change, their carbon footprints, and community wellbeing. Consulting firm Cova Advisory is one such company, who has recently purchased offsets from the Wonderbag initiative and donated 22 of these low-carbon, non-electric, insulated heat-retention cookers to various Early Childhood Development Centres in and around Johannesburg.

“Being a sustainability and energy incentive advisory firm ourselves, we are committed to being a carbon neutral firm. That is why we, in partnership with carbon management firm Climate Neutral Group South Africa, are offsetting our emissions. We have done so since 2014,” says Duane Newman, director at Cova Advisory. “In previous years, we have offset our emissions through tree planting, however this year, we offset our carbon emissions through the Wonderbag initiative.”

“It is a wonderful initiative that enables people in Africa and other developing regions to cook food with minimal energy use, and no fumes,” Zelda Burchell, carbon and energy specialist at Cova Advisory says, explaining that Wonderbag cookers allow food that was brought to a boil by conventional methods to cook for up to 12 hours without using more energy.

“Because we have a heart for the community, we recently met with the principals and teachers from 22 of The Love Trust’s Early Child Hood Development Centres,” he says.” Being a conscious company, we are very aware of people’s energy and food security related struggles. Electricity is expensive. During our meeting with the principals and other stakeholders, we gave each preschool a Wonderbag to help them cook nutritious food and save energy, money, and carbon emissions in the meantime.”

The Wonderbag – essentially a double-sided fabric bag filled with recycled sponge foam chips and featuring a drawstring – was designed for developing regions like Africa where the majority of people rely on charcoal, kerosene, and other high-carbon sources. Besides being expensive, these energy sources are polluting, contribute to climate change, and are bad for one’s health.

Since the Wonderbag’s launch in 2008, over 1 million Wonderbag cookers have been distributed in South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, and other African countries as well as a number of Syrian refugee camps in Jordan.

“It was a great meeting between us, Cova and the principals,” says Sally du Plessis at Wonderbag SA. “The Wonderbags were received by very appreciative principals, who are now able to cook food for the children with minimal energy use, making food preparation cheaper, and reducing carbon emissions associated with coal-generated electricity.”

The 22 Wonderbags that were donated to the centres can save up to 11 tons of carbon-dioxide per year, says Franz Rentel of carbon management firm Climate Neutral Group South Africa. “That is the equivalent of 11 return flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town”.