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Newspaper bricks burn cleaner than wood.

Trash to life-saving treasure

3:42 PM  Sep 19th, 2011
by Shawn Robinson

For a little less than $5 a day, using six newspapers the size of the Dayton Daily News, ETHOS students Jennifer Dodaro, Dan Kemlage and Claire Ellerhorst helped families in underdeveloped countries cook for a week and save lives.

“They normally throw everything and anything into the stove — plastic bottles, wood,” Dodaro said. The plastic melts too quickly and villagers most often have to walk miles carrying heavy loads of wood.

A 15-minute walk for a light load of papers is changing that. The students formed the six newspapers into 10 logs, soaked them, inserted them into a press and allowed them to dry. The logs burn cleaner and don’t require much back-breaking work.

The World Health Organization estimates 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using solid fuels (wood, animal dung, crop waste and coal) in open fires and leaky stoves. Nearly 2 million people a year die prematurely from indoor air pollution. Nearly half the deaths among children younger than 5 years old from acute lower respiratory infections are from indoor air pollution.

During the summer, ETHOS 33 students worked in 11 different countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. When these three students returned to Dayton, they left the town of Comitancillo, Guatemala, breathing a little easier.

ETHOS students built a press to form paper bricks to replace wood as home fuel.

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