Sustainable stoves part of Earth Week at DePauw

Friday, April 22, 2011
Artist Art Donnelly talks to people participating in the sustainable stove construction project. On the left is a large-scale version of the smaller stoves.

This week has been Earth Week at DePauw University. In honor of Earth Day on Friday, the university has enacted several activities, forums and speeches to educate interested students about the merits of living a more energy-sustainable lifestyle.

In the Peeler Art Center's ceramics classroom on Wednesday though, the crashing and banging of 20 hammers pounding holes into tin cans drowns out all speeches.

Art Donnelly, Seattle artist and owner of the non-profit SeaChar, whose mission is to promote the use of biocharcoal as a way to counter climate change, taught DePauw students how to make their own smaller versions of his own sustainable stove models. Using two tin cans, some wood, a hammer and nail, students made a small campfire-type stove similar to a burner that could generate heat for up to an hour using dry, biodegradable materials as fuel.

"It's not just the stove (that's sustainable)," Donnelly said. "This particular type of stove makes charcoal."

Donnelly met several DePauw students during the students' winter term visit, called the Winter Term in Service, to Costa Rica, where he taught those students how to make his larger stoves. Donnelly sells his stoves, which would normally cost about $40, to families in South America for only a few dollars. Most of the work to make the stoves is done by volunteers, other organizations or just by Donnelly.

The biochar created by the stove can then be buried back into the earth, where it will absorb carbon dioxide and lock it into the soil.

Students who attended the seminar, such as Lauren Krumwiede, member of the DePauw Environmental Club and softball team, enjoyed learning about how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

"It sounded really interesting and I wanted to learn how to make a sustainable stove," she said while pounding away with a hammer.

Earth Week has featured an open mic and picnic on Sunday, April 17, a discussion of a documentary on Monday, a forum on Tuesday and the stove workshop. On Thursday, the keynote speaker of the week, Dr. Julian Agyeman, chairman of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University in Massachusetts, spoke to students about the complex and embedded relations between humans and the environment.

Today the university is holding a sustainability advising session for students who are interested in learning more about how to live a more sustainable life and what they need to accomplish.

"We had a pretty good turnout at the panel," said Victoria Googasian, member of the winter term trip and coordinator of the sustainable stove project.

For more information about Donnelly's project, visit

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