BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Brisbane’s Joanne Kennard kept her sustainable cooking invention buried in a cupboard for 20 years before unearthing it and redesigning a product worthy of the world stage, exhibiting at the March 2013 Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves in Cambodia.
“I had the idea twenty years ago as was always going to pot luck teas etc. where we had to wrap food in cloth to keep it warm – there was never enough oven space for all of us,” says New Zealand-born Joanne.
What grew from a simple idea to keep food warm has grown into a concept called EasyOven™ that not only retains heat, but cooks food too. Made from fully washable, brightly coloured insulated poly-cotton, it has generated massive interest world-wide, particularly for its use in third world countries.
Joanne first introduced the product at the Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) in Washington DC in June last year where she was invited to exhibit her other range, Kozy Koala Sleepmats and Kiddysac. The lightweight all in one bedding had generated much interest for use in areas affected by the ravages of war or disaster.
But it’s the EasyOven™ that has taken centre stage for now, especially with a world focus on environmental preservation. It has far reaching appeal. Vulnerable women in remote rural African regions, for example, spend much of their day fetching and carrying fire wood for cooking, and lugging heavy containers of water. Joanne’s product allows them to heat their food, for example, rice or staple maize meal, and boil for just two minutes.
The entire pot is then place in the EasyOven™ and left for an hour to cook in the insulated device. Stews can be boiled for 15 minutes, placed in the device for four hours and are ready to eat. Vegetables such as potatoes can be boiled for a mere five minutes and left to stand for an hour in the EasyOven™. Wood collection is thus greatly reduced as a pot is not left boiling for hours, burning through fuel.
The product also helps prevent excessive smoke inhalation in countries where rural communities make fires inside their dwellings for cooking food. This poses a huge health and burns risk. “Diseases related to smoke inhalation are rated in the top five causes of deaths in the world,” says Joanne.
Energy efficiency is a given. In fact, Joanne’s research shows that when using the device four times a week, half a ton of carbon is saved a year. The product is carbon neutral after only four months when used four times a week.
Not only is it generating interest in third world countries, however, it also has appeal in the Western World where electricity and water costs are soaring. The concept can be used for camping, picnics or barbeques, even food programs at schools in remote communities. It can also be used for keeping products cool – for example frozen foods including ice cream.
Even chefs have sung its praises. Australian celebrity chef and television personality, Ben o’Donaghue has endorsed the product after trying out a range of meals. Olympic hurdler, Kyle van der Kamp has also endorsed its virtues.
The appeal is growing. Pilot projects have been set up in Vietnam, Kenya, Ethiopia, Lao, Timor-Leste (East Timor) and Indonesia. Micro-businesses are also being investigated where the product is sold by locals who earn a living from sales.
And while 20 years seems a long time to wait for an idea to come to fruition, Joanne believes the timing was perfect.
“Twenty years ago if I had said I wanted to help save the environment, no-one would have taken any notice – so much has changed in that time.”