Liter of life: the open source technology serving people

Linked to fundamental rights and human dignity, (unlimited) access to electricity is still today a prerogative of developed countries, while many areas in the global south have none.

Liter of Light is a global, grassroots movement committed to providing affordable, sustainable solar light to people with limited or no access to electricity. Developed in the wake of the 21st century, this technology has been used in the Philippines as a social innovation project since 2011 and then has spread through a network of partnerships around the world. Today, the volunteers teach marginalized communities how to use recycled plastic bottles and locally sourced materials to illuminate their homes, businesses, and streets.

But how does it work practically?

Thanks to this innovation, with just a plastic bottle, some bleach and water, even people with no access to electricity can light their homes during the day. By adding a 1W solar panel and a small led it is also possible to light the houses during nights.

This last idea, created by the collaboration between My Shelter Foundation and the Electronics Engineering Department of the University of Santo Tomas allows the led to switch on automatically, giving the system a high level of trustworthiness by reducing human intervention. The bottle is then fixed through a hole in the roof and then sealed with some resin in order to prevent leaks. Thanks to refraction, the power produced by the light equals a 55W light bulb.

From a grassroot to a world-wide movement

Liter of Light has installed more than 350,000 bottle lights in more than 15 countries and taught green skills to empower grassroots entrepreneurs at every stop. This action has been promoted together with Peace Boat, a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development, and respect for the environment. It consisted of a world-wide voyage that kicked off in Yokohama, Japan on December 26, 2018, and lasted for almost 100 days, docking in 19 ports around Asia, Africa, and South America.

Liter of Light’s open source technology has been also recognized by the UN and adopted for use in some UNHCR camps. In addition, it has received the 2016 St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize, and the 2014-2015 World Habitat Award.

In short Liter of light is a successful example of how small grassroot movements can improve people’s daily life by promoting the acquisition of practical knowledge that adapts to the context in which it is taught.

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