South African-based Natural Balance has produced the Wonderbag, an insulated (and funky) "cooking bag" that greatly reduces energy use in the kitchen.

Wonderbag targets populations that depend on polluting fossil fuels for cooking (re. 3 billion people), where a family using a Wonderbag can reduce its fuel usage by 30% -- and in effect, minimize fuel costs, improve health conditions, and reduce CO2 emissions.

The Wonderbag is a simple heat-retention technology, consisting of a fabric bag and matching lid, both filled with recycled polystyrene (think Styrofoam).

How does it work?  You heat up your pot of food on the stove, and then move the pot to the Wonderbag to finish the cooking, without the use of additional energy.
After just two years of operations, 150,000 Wonderbags are already being used in South Africa, with an order of 5 million more on the way -- thanks to a clever partnership with Unilever.  Moreover, the Wonderbag is South Africa's first official Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project being registered with the UNFCCC.

Wonderbag plans to expand around Africa and into Europe with its Wonderbag on Wheels (WOW) project, and if you're interested, you can order a Wonderbag online -- and for every Wonderbag purchase, one Wonderbag will be given to a family in Africa.

Wonderbag is a fantastically simple product - and it's not a particularly new technology, as I've already described in <a title=""Marmite Norvegienne"" href="">this article about the "Marmite Norvegienne"</a> concept and similar projects.  But what is impressive about Wonderbag is the sheer deployment of the product.  150,000 homes in 2 years!  And 5 million more to come.  When you consider the <a title="Supply chain distribution: The major "roadblock" to eradicating energy poverty." href="">complexity of supply chain distribution</a> as a major roadblock for alleviating energy poverty, these numbers are impressive.

As Wonderbag founder Sarah Collins explains, "We're not just about Wonderbags sold, we're about Wonderbags used".

And check out these enticing recipes that Wonderbag provides that can be used with (or without) the Wonderbag.  Yum.