Light in a bottle

A Liter of Light bottle instantly brightens a dark room in India. Photo by: Isang Litrong Liwanag

Simple ideas have a lot of room in sustainable development. Case in point: solar light bottles, which are already lighting up poor communities in the Philippines.

MyShelter Foundation, headed by Filipino entrepreneur Illac Diaz, used an idea developed by students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to launch the Liter of Light project this year to provide cheap, sustainable lighting to more than 1 million underprivileged Filipino families who are burdened with expensive electricity.

For the resourceful, creating a solar light bottle takes just a few pennies. Try it: Take a two-liter plastic bottle, fill it with purified water, mix in some bleach, cap it off – voilà. To light a room, place it in a hole in your roof, seal it with a rubber sealant, and then wait for sunshine to light your room – no switches needed. The science behind the solar light bottle: refraction.

To date, more than 25,000 solar light bottles have been installed in houses – mostly in slums – in the Philippines, and 100,000 more are expected in Cebu, one of the country’s most densely populated islands.

The solar light bottle does not only provide light to an otherwise dark room, it also prevents incidents of fire by doing away with faulty electrical connections. Downside is, the bottles go dark at night, similar to the interior solar lamp created in 2002 by mechanic Alfredo Moser during a long electric shortage in Brazil.

However, the solar light bottle has reached quite a number of people, generated employment and is now crossing borders: It has reportedly been introduced to poor communities in Colombia, India and Vanuatu, thanks to the power of social media. The concept even made it to the recently concluded U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, where Diaz presented before representatives from 152 nations.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

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