I’ve seen the Wonderbag being used before… in fact, last year my mom blogged about how she used one to cook my birthday dinner because the power went out on the day we celebrated my birthday at her house… so, I was intrigued when I got invited to Microsoft for today’s launch.  But the launch ended up not being about the bag… but about how the company intends distributing it to communities.

Oh and we got to eat lunch that was cooked in the bag!!

Before I start, it probably makes sense to explain what it is.  It’s a bag that looks almost like a duvet with a cushion that you tie around the top.  The way you use it, is to boil your food in a pot, and once the cooking process has started, you take the pot off the stove and put it in the bag, seal it, and leave it.  And the bag’s insulation acts like a slow cooker and cooks the contents of the pot.

So, as you may think, this save electicity or fuel or whatever it is that you cook with, and is good for the environment… and effectively saves you money if you use it regularly.

What’s interesting about this product though, is the way in which it’s being “sold”.

Natural Balance has now reached agreement with some municipalities to distribute/sell the bags to the residents to reduce the power consumption as well as household costs.  The mayor of Newcastle spoke at the launch today and told us how 22000 of these bags will be distributed to the residents of the town who are on the ingident register (those households registered as only earning < R1900 income per month.  And then other residents will get bags if they prove that they pay their electricity bills for 3 consecutive months… as an incentive to paying for electricity.  They’re hoping to encourage the use of the bags to reduce power bills… and effectively giving the residents more disposable income to spend on other things.

Interesting hey?

I really hope that the community project is successful, because I think it’ll really help those that are struggling to pay for electricity… and to keep their consumption under the minimum “free” limit. In fact, there was a guy from the Ekhuruleni municipality at the launch trying to understand how he could get the concept working in his area… good sign!!

What was also interesting was that a product design agency Frog has built a mobile USSD application for field agents to capture basic information about the people that use the bags (and the data is then sent real-time to a cloud based database and system provided by Microsoft) in order for the company to monitor the use of the bags… and then enabling them to claim carbon credits.  Carbon credits are tradeable in Euros and will essentially mean that that money  received from the sale of the credits will be plugged back into the project enabling more bags to be produced and distributed.

Some facts about the bags which I found quite fascinating:
– The Wonderbag saves approximately 0.5 tonnes of carbon per year if it is used 2 or 3 times a week.
– With regular use, the Wonderbag can save at least 15kWh of electricity and 1.6 litres of paraffin a week, and as much as 50% of the energy needed of cooking.

Oh and it’s pretty!
I think it’s a really worthwhile project they’re embarking on… I think I want to get one for my domestic worker… I’m sure it’ll save her some money.

However, even though it’s so cool, I’m not sure how often I would use it… other than what my mom did… use it when the power goes out and you want to cook something for a long time.  We don’t really eat a lot of stewy stuff.  But if we did… this would make a huge amount of sense

PS. Some of the images taken with iPhone and Instagram and the others with my DSLR