Interactive Biogas Food Cart

Project Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF:

Letter of Intent:

UW Campus Sustainability Fund Letter of Intent

Project title: Biogas Cookout/ Cooking Class/ Food Cart

SafeFlame is a local startup, co-founded by Kevin Cussen - a Foster School of Business evening MBA student. SafeFlame empowers families in the developing world to have clean-burning cooking fuel by providing an affordable service that converts organic waste into fuel. SafeFlame’s digesters utilize biologic process that break-down organic waste in a closed environment. The byproduct of this digestion is methane, which can be used as a fuel source to power a cookstove. The SafeFlame team has developed three potential projects, all involving cooking with biogas.

One potential project involves constructing a cart that has a cookstove installed that runs on biogas. This stove could cook hot dogs or popcorn, which could be sold at events or at high foot traffic areas of campus. We expect the research, design, construction, and operation of this project to be less than $20,000 and to provide high visibility and “teachable moments” into alternative fuel sources such as biogas.

Another potential project is a cooking class utilizing biogas. Different cooks could come in to showcase international dishes or dishes made with local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. The SafeFlame team is in early discussions with the UW co-op as well as several local food co-ops and farmers on the execution of this plan. The cost for this project would likely be under $10,000.

The last potential project is a biogas barbeque or cook-off event. This would be an excellent chance to showcase the utility of biogas, while testing the efficiency in a real, event-style cooking situation. For this project, the SafeFlame team would heavily engage with different groups on campus to promote the cook-off. We would work with the CSF to scope an appropriate sized “cook-off” to achieve the goals of the CSF.

1. Environmental Impact

Burning biogas has the potential for reducing environmental impact. Human activities, especially the the developed world, cause organic waste to accumulate and rot. When this waste decomposes in anaerobic environments, such as in landfills, it produces methane and other greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that is 25 times more effective at trapping solar radiation than carbon. Furthermore, in many developing countries where wood or charcoal are primary cooking fuels, the use of these fuel sources is a primary driver of deforestation and serious health issues. If more organic waste was utilized in technologies such as biodigesters, we could reduce environmental impacts from both of these sources while also providing a valuable service. Furthermore, current cooking fuels, both in the global south and global north, can have hazardous effects on the environment. Specifically, in the United States, cooking with natural gas has dubious implications for environmental sustainability, as hydraulic fracturing is associated with numerous negative effects including methane leakage and ground water contamination. Based on the active environmental community at the UW, we believe the CSF is the perfect vehicle to raise awareness of the benefits of cooking with biogas and our goal at this point is to spread awareness and build community support. 

2. Student Leadership & Involvement
The CEO of SafeFlame is an evening MBA student at the Foster School of Business. Furthermore, a large team of interdisciplinary students ranging from engineers to geographers have committed significant efforts to the SafeFlame mission over the last 18 months. Dr. Mari Winkler from the college of civil and environmental engineering is the firm’s principal investigator and the organization has close ties to several schools and organizations at the UW.

3. Education, Outreach, & Behavior Change

All of our project proposals have a heavy focus on education and outreach. Though many students at the UW may have heard of biogas, they may not know the practical uses or limitations of the technology. With our project(s) we intend introduce or inform students on additional options in the cleantech space and encourage them to lead more sustainable lives. We expect this introduction may lead to a greater interest in biogas in future years and proposals focusing on sustained use of biogas at the UW.

Furthermore, the educational component of having students working with companies in the space cannot be understated.

1.     4. Feasibility, Accountability, & Sustainability:

SafeFlame is an on-going concern concentrating on the introduction of biogas as a viable business. These activities dovetail perfectly with supporting each of the above outlined projects. Business lead Kevin Cussen has years of management experience coordinating complex projects successfully and research advisor Dr. Mari Winkler has coordinated multiple research efforts in anaerobic and aerobic digestion.

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Caelan