Tom Osborn is the 20 year old founder of GreenChar in Kenya, a clean energy start-up that produces charcoal briquettes for cooking purposes that are both healthier to use and last longer. His coals are produced from recycled agricultural waste such as sugarcane, which studies show emit 90% less smoke, and have 60% more energy than the normal charcoal used for cooking.
Growing up in Awendo, a small town in Kenya, he watched how women in the community would cook meals for their families on charcoal-fuelled cookstoves. And as a young child, it was Osborn’s duty to light the cookstove for his mother every day for lunch. But in high school he discovered something that worried him. “I randomly came across a report saying smoke from firewood and charcoal killed more people than AIDS, Malaria and TB combined,” he explained.
“That really shocked me and made me start thinking of my mom, and that maybe she was slowly dying from all the times she had cooked for us. And I felt guilty because I was one of the people she was cooking for. So I wanted to try to help her.”
He researched online and came across students at MIT who were testing the potential of converting agricultural waste into charcoal. Osborn got in touch with them and found out how to produce the healthier charcoal briquettes that GreenChar now offers the market.
Fresh from high school, Tom founded Greenchar with the aim of transforming the Kenyan cooking environment. Tom is a winner of the Global Minimum Innovate Kenya, The Royal Commonwealth Society Young Persons Essay Award 2012 and is a Golden Climate Environmental Project Olympiad Silver Medalist
Osborn has recently been named as one of Forbes‘ global ’30 under 30′ social entrepreneurs, and last year was selected as a 2014 Anzisha Fellow, winning US$10,000 from Donors’ Circle at the Anzisha Prize Gala Awards.
He was also chosen as a global Echoing Green Fellow for 2014, which comes with two years of funding totalling $80,000. He is the youngest recipient to receive the fellowship in the organisation’s 27-year-history.
Tom Osborn with GreenChar is transforming Kenya through its eco-friendly and smokeless charcoal briquettes that curb deforestation, reduce CO₂-related emissions, and save lives