Cheesy Solar Charger & Power Bank Helps Bring Clean Power To East African Students

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A quirky dairy-themed portable solar charger and power bank* set offers a light-hearted and whimsical approach to charging mobile devices with renewable energy, while also helping to deliver a clean power option to students in East Africa.

Over the last five to ten years, portable solar chargers have gone from being expensive, clunky, and inefficient to affordable, slim, and higher performance, and what was once considered a novelty or niche item has fast become a needful thing to help keep our gadgets powered up in places far beyond the reach of an extension cord. During that evolution, the different brands of solar chargers seem to have mostly converged on a single style — thin flexible solar cells, usually weatherproof, sewn into a lightweight but rugged fabric, usually black in color — but a new entry to the portable solar space is decidedly different.

The SunMade Cheese product line, from YOLK (the folks behind the million dollar Solar Paper crowdfunding project), is entirely dairy-themed, with the solar panel itself styled as a cheese board, a power bank as a milk bottle, the USB port a wedge of brie (USBrie, anyone?), a flashlight as ricotta, and even a Bluetooth speaker and radio dressed up as a hunk of Swiss cheese. The cow branding (pun intended) builds on a previous design venture that installed a Solar Cow at a primary school in Pokot, Kenya, which charges power banks (Solar Milk) for students to take home with them, which can then charge the family’s cell phone or power lighting.

Solar Cow is made to solve the very specific problem, Child Labor.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, child labor prevents one in five children from attending school. That’s twice the global average. Because the Child Labor is deeply related to economic aspects, the Solar Cow is devised as a way to reward children for going to school and their parents for sending them.

When kids arrive at school in the morning they just attach their batteries where the cow’s udders would be. At the end of the school day, they can leave with the full supply of valuable electricity.

With the Solar Cow, families can save 10~20% of the income they used to spend for charging cell a phone. The most important part is that parents must send their children to school to get free electricity because the school is where the source of electricity is.

The new project from YOLK, the SunMade Cheese set, will help underwrite more solar opportunities for students in East Africa, as each pledge on Kickstarter will generate the donation of one Solar Milk Power Bank by YOLK to a child, thereby allowing more time for their education and less time and money having to be spent charging a cell phone or other device.

The campaign aims to raise $100,000 over the next month or so, and pledges of $98 will receive the basic Milk and Cheese (5V 1.2 amp solar panel and 2900 mAh power bank), while those ponying up $198 will get the whole bundle, which YOLK estimates will ship to backers in February of 2019. Is it the most efficient and powerful portable solar charger out there? No, probably not. Is it unique and useful and does it support a bigger mission? Yes, yes, and yes. If you’re interested in moo-ving the renewable energy conversation forward, one cheese pun at a time, take a look at this udderly delightful campaign and see if it’s something worth supporting, and remember, solar milk is vegan and chock full of nutritious electrons.

via Digital Trends; this article was retroactively sponsored by InStash

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Derek Markham

Derek lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, fungi, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves fresh roasted chiles, peanut butter on everything, and buckets of coffee.

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