By UW Sustainability | Mar 9, 2017

SafeFlame is a local cleantech start-up founded by Foster School MBA student Kevin Cussen which aims to tackle a glut of high profile issues effecting people in developing nations. SafeFlame utilizes biodigesters to break down organic content and create biogas, which can be used as fuel for gas cookstoves. The company hopes to use its technology to help cut indoor pollutants caused by cookstoves that use fuels such as wood, charcoal, crop waste or animal dung. 

However, the start-up is currently working a little closer to home on a project sponsored by the Campus Sustainability Fund. The small team was awarded a grant to build a biogas powered food cart which can be used at campus events and high foot traffic areas on the UW campus. The cart will cook food items and serve as a concrete educational aid on the applications of biogas as an alternative energy. Students who are interested in learning more or getting involved are encouraged to check out SafeFlame's Facebook page or reach out directly to Kevin Cussen at

The campus project is a demonstration of what SafeFlame hopes is a technology which will help millions of people around the world. Globally, more than 3 billion people cook using biomass (wood, animal dung, crop waste, or charcoal). The indoor pollution created by burning these fuels results in over 4.3 million deaths annually with deaths particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time within the home. Additionally, many of these solid fuels are gathered in an unsustainable manner by local communities causing severe deforestation.

SafeFlame’s service – which they call an untethered utility – is provided through biodigesters which SafeFlame technicians install directly into customers’ households. These digesters, which are serviced regularly by the team, break down organic content to produce biogas which customers can use to prepare meals on a standard gas cookstove.

"Think of it like your water heater at home," Cussen said. "Someone installs it somewhere in your house and as long as you pay your electricity bill you reap the benefits of hot water. Once we install a digester, all our customers need to do is pay their bill and they have access to clean burning gas at the turn of a knob."

Keep an eye out for the demonstration SafeFlame food cart coming to an event near you this Spring!