A Liter of Light, lighting up lives!

Ever thought of what you would normally do to a plastic bottle after drinking out of it? Ever thought of what happens to a bottle, once you throw it away? Or how you could use the bottle in any other way, than disposing it? Well here is one solution that has caught the world’s attention. This revolutionizing, new solar lighting movement is called, ‘Liter of Light’.

A Brazilian mechanic and inventor, Alfredo Moser, invented a unique and simple alternative to illumination, when a power outage affected his workshop. With little materials around him, he used everyday items to build a daylight solution. Inspired by the simplicity of this invention, Illac Diaz, founder of MyShelter Foundation, decided to spread the invention in his energy hungry, cyclonic affected parts of his native country, the Philippines. The ‘Liter of Light’ movement started since then; Opening 53 chapters across nations like India, Philippines, United States, Pakistan, among other, since 2011.

So what is so unique about this solar based solution? How is it different from other solar based solutions out there? Why is it attracting so much attention worldwide? The answer lies in the innovation itself. This unique solution uses minimum resources – a plastic bottle, a little amount of bleach, a small aluminium sheet, resin and basic tools.  This bottle is now ready to be fitted on an aluminium rooftop. On a sunny day, sunlight refracts through the bleached water, illuminating the room below.  It is estimated to have an effect, equivalent to a 50 Watt bulb[1]. All this, at a cost of less than $2[2]! Since the success of Liter of Light’s daylight solution, the foundation has started work on a night light solution as well. The night solution is modular and integrates with the daylight solution using a few LED bulbs and a compact solar panel. Though the cost of the night light solution is presently around $15-20[3], Liter of Light is committed to innovate further, to reduce cost below $10, noting that the minimum cost for a one light bulb system is $10, which is yet marginally high for most regions that fall under extreme poverty.

According to a World Bank[4] report on energy, 1.1 billion people are yet without access to electricity. Globally, an estimated 250 to 500 million households still rely on fuel-based lamps to supply their basic lighting needs. Kerosene being the most predominant fuel. Users of kerosene lamps pay 20-30%[5] of their annual family’s income for the fuel. However a bigger price is paid for their well-being, in the form of injuries from burns, insufficient illumination for education of children, and the significant health impacts from indoor household air pollution (UNEP). An estimated 4.3 million deaths every year from lung cancer, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, acute lower respiratory disease, and ischaemic heart disease are attributable to HAP emissions[6]. More than three quarters of those deaths (3.31 million) occur in South East Asia and the Western Pacific[7]. Kerosene is also a major emitter of Black Carbon[8], a major contributor to climate change along with the CO2 released from burning of Kerosene[9] . Solar based solutions like the Liter of Light daylight and night lights are helping people to switch to a safer source of light and an inexpensive solution.

Among the regions Liter of Light has penetrated, the most impressive utility of the product are in war-affected, human displaced and catastrophic climatic zones. For instance, the northern belt of Pakistan, Philippines and the east coast of India. Around 35 kilometres southeast of Peshawar, lies one of Pakistan’s largest refugee camps – Jalozai IDP refugee camp. Its home to an estimated 36,000 refugees. Access to basic amenities like electricity, roads and water are very scarce. Maternity wards have very little or no light to run emergency operations. The camp has no lighting along the streets and public washrooms. Vaqas Butt, Founder of ‘Liter of Light – Pakistan’ in collaboration with Pepsi Co Pakistan initiated “Lighting up Lives”. This programme has lit up public restrooms, streets and hospital labor wards. Refugees from the camp express their feeling of having light at night as ‘a blessing’ to their hardship they face.

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Similarly, in the far south East Asia region of the Philippines, a country constantly ravaged by cyclonic storms, Liter of Light installed up to 200,000 daylight and nightlight solutions (pepsico). ‘Liter of Light Bangalore’, recently helped light three hamlets, near coast of Vizag. This included installation of streetlights and hut rooftop night light solutions in areas where electricity had never been reached. A huge impact has been in the employment of rural men and women, to earn a living by maintaining the solution.

Many critics to the Liter of Light movement raise one very important question. How is the use of waste bottles sustainable? What happens to the bottles after its lifespan is over? Use of the bottles for lighting helps in reducing the otherwise disposed bottles which usually land up in landfills and take years to decompose. The estimated lifespan of a Liter of Light bottle and the bleach mixture has been recorded to be around an average of 3 years, though, different regions and different conditions could extend or shorten the time. Liter of Light is considering a plan of action with regard to the disposal of the bottles post its usage stage.

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Energy for all is going to be the single most important priority for all developed and developing economies in the coming decades. As their economies grow, so does their need for energy. Sustainable energy solutions like renewable energy will be a crucial factor, as economies are looking to curb their impact on the environment as they grow. Sustainable low cost energy solutions like the Liter of Light initiative will play a crucial role in providing energy requirements to regions that would yet need distributed power.

 

 

Joseph Varun

 

[1] “Liter of Light’s solar-powered, DIY lamp made from a plastic …” 2015. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/features/liter-of-lights-solarpowered-diy-lamp-made-from-a-plastic-bottle-is-transforming-lives-9993728.html>

[2] “Liter of Light | Global Brands Magazine.” 2014. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.globalbrandsmagazine.com/liter-of-light/>

[3] “Bottling Solar Energy for All by Illac Diaz — The G Project.” 2013. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.thisisyourplanet.com/ideas/community/412>

[4] “Energy Overview – World Bank.” 2013. 11 Jun. 2015 <http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/energy/overview>

[5] “Solar Power Off the Grid: Energy Access for World’s Poor by …” 2012. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://e360.yale.edu/feature/solar_power_off_the_grid_energy_access_for_worlds_poor/2480/>

[6] “WHO | Household air pollution and health.” 2005. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en/>

[7] “Kerosene Lamps are an Important Target for Reducing …” 2014. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://www.unep.org/ccac/Media/PressReleases/KeroseneLampsImportantTargetforReducingPollu/tabid/794525/Default.aspx>

[8]Black carbon (BC) is the most strongly light-absorbing component of particulate matter (PM), and is formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, and biomass. BC is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of fine particles (PM2.5). BC is the most effective form of PM, by mass, at absorbing solar energy: per unit of mass in the atmosphere, BC can absorb a million times more energy than carbon dioxide (CO2). BC is a major component of “soot”, a complex light-absorbing mixture that also contains some organic carbon (OC).

[9] “The kerosene lamp and black carbon – warming the planet …” 2013. 10 Jun. 2015 <http://solar-aid.org/black-carbon-and-the-kerosene-lamp/>

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