Innovation That Matters

The Good Charcoal Company makes charcoal out of the invasive black-thorn acacia | Photo source The Good Charcoal Company

Invasive plant turned into sustainable charcoal 


The hardwood charcoal helps to preserve biodiversity in Namibia by tackling bush encroachment

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Spotted: The Good Charcoal company turns an overgrown bush that is choking the African savannah into something useful. Working closely with local partners in Namibia, the company uses black-thorn acacia for its all-natural, hardwood charcoal. No chemicals are used in its production, and as a particularly dense wood, acacia burns at very high temperatures. Cooks thus need less charcoal to achieve the optimal cooking temperature.

The plant grows as a shrub or a tree and has spread throughout the African savannah, severely limiting hunting grounds for native species such as the cheetah. As the acacia has spread, it has prevented native grasses and other plants and animals essential to the area’s natural biodiversity from thriving. The iconic cheetah, for example, is now on the Red endangered list, meaning that it is at extremely high risk of extinction. Releasing the savannah, one of Africa’s most important habitats, from the clutches of acacia overgrowth, would help the cheetahs, and many other species, by providing the open space and vegetation they need to survive. 

As well as providing income for communities in Africa alongside essential conservation work, The Good Charcoal company focuses on food insecurity in the United States. With its product now available at some of the nation’s largest retailers, the business donates a free meal to someone in need for every sale of its eight-pound bag of charcoal.

Conservationists and innovators are getting creative when it comes to finding ways to protect endangered species. Materials scientists created a fake rhinoceros horn from silk and horsehair to help prevent the animals from being poached, and an invasive species of fish is being used to create a new leather alternative.  

Written By: Keely Khoury



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