"Liter of Light," an inspiring project that aims to provide sustainable, green lighting in impoverished homes using just a 1-liter bottle of water, is now present in 15 countries, including India, Kenya and the Philippines.
Urban slum dwellings constructed in narrow, congested alleyways often have no proper lighting sources at all. Where electricity is available, it can be a fire-risk because of bad wiring, aside from the cost burden on impoverished families. Often, families just do without light. But the Liter of Light project aims to utilize the sunshine outside to light up houses.
A small hole is cut in the roof and a transparent, plastic bottle filled with clear water is plugged into the hole. This refracts the sunlight 360 degrees and spreads it around the entire room. The method provides the equivalent lighting of a 55-watt bulb on sunny days. To keep the water clear, bleach is added to it, thus preventing the growth of algae. Each plastic bottle can have a lifespan of five years.
The project has its roots in an idea by Brazilian mechanic Alfredo Moser. The idea came to him during one of the country's frequent blackouts in 2002. "The only places that had energy were the factories - not people's houses," he says, talking about the city where he lives, Uberaba. Moser and his friends started thinking about ways to raise an alarm if there was an emergency. His boss suggested using a plastic bottle of water as a lens to focus the sun's rays on dry grass. Moser experimented with the idea and found that the bottles refracted light, and developed the lamp. "It's a divine light. God gave the sun to everyone, and light is for everyone. Whoever wants it saves money. You can't get an electric shock from it, and it doesn't cost a penny," he says.
Illac Angelo Diaz, executive director of the MyShelter Foundation in the Philippines, also picked up on the idea. MyShelter works in alternative, sustainable construction methods. "We had huge amounts of bottle donations," he says. "So we filled them with mud and created walls, and filled them with water to make windows. When we were trying to add more, somebody said: 'Hey, somebody has also done that in Brazil. Alfredo Moser is putting them on roofs.'"
MyShelter began making the lamps in June 2011, and trains people to make and install the lamps as a source of income. Thus, the Liter of Light project was born. People in 15 countries have picked up the idea, including Kenya, India and Bangladesh. Several companies and organisations such as Pepsi are supporting the foundation.
The project is also working on a solar-powered, battery-attached version to provide lighting at night. Using Philippines as a base, the project wants to install a million bottle lights around the world by 2015.