Indian teen’s solar-powered iron cart nominated for prestigious Earthshot Prize

·1-min read

An Indian teenager is in the running for a top environmental prize thanks to her solar-powered ironing cart.

Vinisha Umashankar, 14, of Tiruvannamalai in the state of Tamil Nadu, developed a clean alternative to the charcoal-powered street irons that press clothes for millions of Indians each day.

Now she is a finalist in the Clean Our Air category of The Earthshot Prize, which is supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Vinisha was inspired when she saw an ironing vendor dumping charcoal in a bin and began researching the impact of charcoal. She saw how smoke causes lung disease among vendors and was shocked to learn of the connection between charcoal and deforestation — each year industrial quantities of trees are felled to make charcoal.

She said: “The big problem I am trying to solve is to eliminate the practise of burning charcoal to heat an iron box for pressing clothes by the vendors.

“My innovation, the solar ironing cart will save trees, reduce air pollution, protect the environment and help stop climate change.”

Vinisha saw how smoke causes lung disease among vendors (Earthshot Prize)
Vinisha saw how smoke causes lung disease among vendors (Earthshot Prize)

Vinisha’s solar powered cart replaces charcoal with clean energy from the sun. Five hours of sunshine powers the iron for six hours and the extra mobility means they can sell on doorsteps as well as the roadside.

She plans to manufacture the solar ironing cart in India and sell it at an affordable price in Asia, Africa, and anywhere that enjoys sunlight throughout the year.

Vinisha traces her love of science to the encyclopaedia she received on her fifth birthday, which instilled a fascination about how things work – one that intensified as she realised the power of invention to do good.

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