Appropriate technology

Appropriate technology is a philosophy, a way of thinking and seeing the world. It's a concept which was developed as 'intermediate technology' in EF Schumacher's groundbreaking (1973) work "Small is Beautiful".

The ways in which appropriate technologies are implemented are specific to the context of their use but they tend to be:

  • small-scale;
  • labor-intensive;
  • cheap enough to be accessible to anyone;
  • energy-efficient;
  • environmentally sound;
  • locally controlled;
  • has scope for human creativity, as opposed to alienation and dehumanisation.

Initially appropriate technology was seen as a way of transferring ideas for problem solving from the developed world to less developed countries. However permaculturists and the Transition Movement have been quick to see the relevance for appropriate technologies in western nations. Not only will this bring more resilience in a low carbon future but also brings social, economic and community benefits now. Examples of appropriate technology in action are:

  • ‘lifestraw’ The Lifestraw is a personal, low-cost water purification tool, with a service lifetime of 700 litres, or about one year of water consumption for a single person. Unlike other water purification products, Lifestraw is intuitive to use, can be worn around the neck, and requires no training, special tools or electricity to operate. The sucking action of the straw pulls the water through a filter that traps 99.999% of waterborne bacteria (such as Salmonella, Shigella, Enterococcus and Staphylococcus) and 98.7% of waterborne viruses;
  • ‘rocket stove’ A rocket stove is a super-efficient heater invented which reduces biomass fuel requirements for cooking and boiling water. It combines the stove’s air-intake with the fuel-feed slot in an opening terminated by a combustion chamber, which in turn leads to a chimney and heat exchanger. Rocket Stoves are commonly used today in Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. The stoves are easy to build using local materials, and accept small diameter fuel such as twigs and branches;
  • ‘vermicomposting’ using worms to breakdown kitchen food waste into compost for growing vegetables.