BioLite x REI: Reaching Households While Reducing Emissions

May 07, 2024
BioLite has entered a first-of-its kind, multi-year carbon partnership with outdoor retailer REI Co-op
BioLite has entered a first-of-its kind, multi-year carbon partnership with outdoor retailer REI Co-op.

 

Chances are, if you know BioLite, you know us through the outdoors. Maybe our electricity-generating campstove caught your eye or our award-winning headlamp changed the way you light your site at night. We’re proud to design gear that helps you feel at-home, off-grid – but that’s just one piece of what we do here.


BioLite was founded on the belief that everyone deserves access to safe, reliable energy – and that the future of both people and planet depends on our collective ability to start harnessing that energy in a way that’s sustainable and renewable. When our co-founders took their pre-BioLite prototype to a combustion conference in 2009, they quickly learned that half the planet was still cooking over smoky open fires daily and that the need for innovative technologies went far beyond a camping trip. This became the driving force behind BioLite and its unique business model, what we call Parallel Innovation: that by pairing outdoor recreation with emerging markets, we could develop core technologies and turn them into solutions relevant to each audience, creating more impact than either segment could achieve alone.

BioLite co-founders Jonathan and Alec
BioLite co-founders Jonathan and Alec with one of the first CampStove prototypes.

A decade later, what started as a bold hypothesis has turned into a reality: on the emerging markets side of the business, BioLite has reached over 8.1 million individuals with renewable energy solutions, transforming the way people cook, charge, and light daily life off-grid. While our products sit at the core of our work, it is through game-changing partnerships that we are able to deliver this impact not only at scale, but to those who need it most.


One such partnership is the first-of-its kind, multi-year carbon partnership with outdoor retailer REI Co-op, announced last week in the retailer’s 2023 Impact Report. Through this partnership, BioLite is able to manufacture and distribute 30,000 additional clean cookstoves to households, generating verified carbon credits that allow REI to account for operational emissions as they pursue their long term path to a net-zero future.


“We prioritize climate actions that limit emissions while empowering people,” said Andrew Dempsey, Director of Climate at REI. “And as a co-op, we often find this intersection through direct collaboration with our community. Our partnership with BioLite is a great example of this approach.”


How It All Works

When a BioLite clean cookstove replaces an open fire, two things happen: less fuel is used and dramatically improved combustion lowers overall emissions. These reduced emissions are quantified and verified by licensed climate auditors and governing bodies, enabling BioLite to retroactively earn carbon credits for every stove in use (retroactively means that the stoves must perform as intended in order to receive credit). BioLite is then able to sell these credits to organizations, sovereign nations, and other entities seeking to take responsibility for their carbon footprint by supporting projects that reduce emissions.


Proceeds generated by these carbon finance programs enable us to reduce the cost of cookstoves to end-customers by nearly 40%, making stoves more affordable to, households most in need, who are all too often overlooked and underserved. Our carbon work creates a chain reaction of positive impact: stoves in use generate credits that enable us to get
more stoves out into the world which generate more credits which enable us to get more stoves out in the world, each cycle reaching households often more remote and lower income than before.


As of 2023, BioLite clean cookstoves have avoided over two million tons of CO2e emissions from entering the atmosphere, roughly the equivalent of taking 537,000 cars off the road for a year.


BioLite cookstove projects have been registered under The Gold Standard, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Verra VCS Standard, and other governing bodies.


All That’s Cooperatively Possible:
Brighter Futures For All

While many carbon programs start and end with yearly one-off purchases that look back on a carbon footprint, REI Coop has made the bold choice to commit to purchasing a forward stream of credits far into the future. In taking this action, REI maximizes potential for impact through three key ways:

  • It provides upfront capital for BioLite to manufacture and distribute stoves at scale
  • It creates predictability and stability in an otherwise volatile commodities market
  • It bypasses needs for third party investors and brokers, keeping the money focused on actual stove manufacturing and subsidization which has a direct impact on successfully reaching lowest income end users inside the BioLite portfolio

By taking a longer view approach, REI Coop empowers BioLite today to get the actual work done. We are grateful for this partnership and for the runway it provides to transform daily life for over 30,000 homes.

A woman in Kenya uses the BioLite JikoSafi, a low cost cookstove released in early 2024 designed to provide clean cooking to even more households in sub-Saharan Africa.

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