The Himalaya mountain range touches six countries, boasts the world’s highest peaks and drains into lands housing 1.3 billion people—many of them living in poverty and herding domestic animals for sustenance. One Earth Designs (OED), Cambridge, Mass., was formed by two college students to assist Himalayan communities with science/technology education and sustainable infrastructure. OED honed in on mountain herding cultures’ need for portable heating, launching the HeatSource Textile Project.
HeatSource textiles store energy and control heat delivery using phase change material (PCM) capsules embedded in traditional Himalayan textiles. The textiles deliver heat directly to the user, are charged with solar energy and can be re-used. As herding communities move flocks to suitable grazing locations, HeatSource lightweight, flexible heating textiles travel with them. Since many of these depressed rural communities burn wood or animal dung for heat, the HeatSource textile alternative not only increases mobility but also improves air quality and preserves trees. However, this Mount-Everest-sized improvement in quality of life, economic sustainability and the environment wasn’t the end of the HeatSource achievement.
The reason Himalayan herding cultures must range so far to feed their flocks is climate change. A warming climate shifted the range of the cold-loving pika, a grass-eating rodent in the rabbit family, into grasslands grazed by domestic herds. The competition for food depletes grasslands, erodes soil and facilitates flooding. The HeatSource textiles replace burning fuels and help to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions, a primary cause of global climate change.