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6/24/10

On Sustainable Business, And Cook Stoves

Since discovering my beloved 1940s Mealmaster for our off grid prefab house kit and tracking down the manufacturer, Knox Stove Works, I have had some great conversations with their representative, Joe Anderson, who caught me up with what the company is doing today.  They still make Mealmasters, but there's a catch:

"Well, because these cook stoves last forever and don't break, we had to expand into other areas, such as making cattle gates and other agricultural metalworks.  A new Mealmaster is made up of lots of pieces, so it's labor intensive to create, therefore are an investment.  But they last forever, so people just keep finding our old cook stoves and reusing them."

It reminds me of that gum commercial, where the gum just keeps working, and working... and the company has to kidnap back its gum so people will buy another piece!



I loved hearing the Mealmaster story, because it reflects my own philosophy regarding a sustainable, environmentally friendly business: you must have multiple revenue streams because if your product is great, it lasts, and can be reused; so one doesn't just do *one* thing, but several things well: that is what makes a business lighter on the earth and sustainable.

Really, even if you're a green builder, should the sum of your career be solely... building?
Oh, I know I'll be slapped for that comment, but I believe we need to consider it. And forced by the recession, I am seeing architecture firms expand their skill sets into graphic design, web development, as well as providing solutions for those in need of environmentally-friendly shelter.

And the people who solely focus on building, building, building? Firms competing to be bigger and bigger, with ever-increasing volume? They don't interest me. Are they creating buildings solely for salaries rather then focusing on providing solutions while rewarded by their income from several areas in which they do well, and enjoy?

Tektonics, our partner in our Green Cabin Kits prefabs, is another great example: They are industrial designers, bike craftsmen, carpenters, fabricators, and architects...

But back to cook stoves: I asked Mr. Anderson how I might bring my own Mealmaster up to today's standards; although the exterior and oven area are in great condition (I know it doesn't look like it now, but I discovered those spots are *easy* to wipe away, the inside is in great condition; I just haven't been back to the passive solar prefab house kit yet to clean it!), the fire brick is cracked and that area could use replacing.

"We now have a drop in fire box replacement."
Fantastic! Er, how much will that cost?
"$125."
Sublime. I'll take it!

So soon we will drop in the new version of the combustion area, while solidifying research on air exchange and other issues mentioned previously to consider when installing such an appliance in a tight, energy efficient, structural insulated panel prefab house.

More off grid systems detail  for the passive solar prefab house kit soon.  The solar systems order is placed, and technical off grid prefab systems information follows!

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