Concerned about the planet they will leave to their children, a group of local parents has launched GigatonGifts in time for holiday shopping. As its first initiative, they identified open-fire cooking as an often overlooked source of many critical, interrelated planetary problems.
Worldwide, almost three billion people cook or eat meals cooked over wood or charcoal fires. The soot from these fires causes respiratory ailments that kill two to four million people a year, most of them women and children. The reliance on wood and charcoal for cooking has created areas of severe deforestation in over 50 countries. Deforestation directly causes or amplifies a host of acute problems, including both drought and flooding, top-soil erosion, extreme poverty (a critical driver of human trafficking), famine and climate change.
Through GigatonGifts, customers can purchase trees for reforestation projects in severely deforested areas of Africa and Haiti, as well as fuel- efficient, clean-burning stoves to replace the health-damaging wood and charcoal stoves commonly used by families in these areas. One gift example is supplying a solar stove for villagers in Madagascar (pictured above).
GigatonGifts — staffed solely by volunteers — has partnered with the Eden Reforestation Projects, which has planted over 65 million trees since 2005. The goal is to fund the planting of one billion trees and eliminate the use of open fires for meal preparation.
Co-Founder and Executive Director Elton Sherwin (pictured right), a resident of Menlo Park, worked for 15 years as a venture capitalist and is an authority on the economics of climate change. In 2010 he authored Addicted to Energy. Co-Founder Craig Wesley has an extensive executive-level background in entrepreneurial, early stage, and Fortune 100 companies.
“You can plant 50 mangroves in Madagascar for $9,” said Elton who serves as ED of the Carbon Zero Institute . “The stories behind these projects are fascinating. Each gift comes with an interesting description that can be given to the gift recipient.”
GigatonGifts is the first project of the Carbon Zero Institute (CZI). The CZI Board of Directors consists of prominent entrepreneurs and academics, including Stanford University President Emeritus, Donald Kennedy; Jon Foster, CFO of LS9; Lisa Van Dusen, Director of Partner Engagement and External Relations, SV2 (Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund); and Marion O’Leary, internationally-recognized authority on the use of isotopes for studies in chemistry and biology. The Carbon Zero Institute is sponsored by the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.
Photo of Elton Sherwin taken in 2010 by Chris Gulker