Our Beginnings

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The very beginning

In 2005, Scot arrived in Beijing to teach an engineering summer program. However, no students had enrolled on the program, so instead he travelled through Western China along the Silk Road, and ended up teaching his program in Qinghai University. This would be the first of many visits, where in students’ villages he would help them to install wells, fix tractors, build greenhouses, and train his students in engineering techniques with which they could help their communities.

Two years later, Catlin, while studying climate change, met a local Qinghai family who invited her into their home. They asked her why all these scientists came to study outdoor pollution, when indoor pollution was so much worse. Measuring the indoor air, she found that it was ten times more polluted than Beijing. Turns out that each year more than half a million people were dying in China from toxic smoke coming from their stoves, and worldwide the death toll was around 4 million. The fuel problem did not end there. For children to attend school, families were required to send fuel with them. Girls spent much time gathering fuel for their brothers’ education. Illegal deforestation and removal of excess yak dung fertilizer impacted not only the health of the land, but put a strain on family finances.

It was while experimenting with families on improved energy technologies, that Catlin ran into a young man who told her of a teacher who was helping students on engineering solutions in their communities. “Many foreigners come through our lands and give us things or tell us that we should live differently, but this teacher is one of the few who help us work on the things we think are important.” This teacher was Scot, and it was there on the Himalayan plateau that the One Earth Designs collaboration began.

Since, the partnership has grown into a team of passionate individuals. Community projects in Qinghai, turned into innovative ideas that are developing into technological products that resonate on a global scale.