The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2016 Winner

Liter of Light Brazil – Ecologically Sustainable Lighting

Liter of Light Brazil – Ecologically Sustainable Lighting

LITER OF LIGHT empowers disadvantaged communities without electricity by teaching them how to create sustainable light sources using basic equipment. The affordable DIY day system provides light to homes, schools and public centres for less than $2 USD per unit.

1.3 billion people in the world and more than 3 million people in Brazil suffer from energy poverty. Liter of Light is a global open source movement that provides sustainable lighting, free of charge to simple dwellings around the world. The simple device consists of a plastic bottle filled with water and bleach, fitted through the roof of a home to refract sunlight. The device provides the same amount of light as a 55 Watt light bulb and produces zero carbon emissions. The technology can also be upgraded with LED bulbs, solar panels and batteries to provide low cost lighting at night.

The project follows three guiding principles. First, the materials used to build the solar lights should be sourced locally and be easy to replace. The skills needed to manufacture the light sources should be minimal and lastly, the project should contribute to the livelihood of local communities.

Liter of Light uses an open-source technology, developed by student engineers from different universities. The process can easily be replicated by anyone around the globe using readily available materials and basic electronics skills. Rather than relying on large-scale, imported or close-patented technologies, the project seeks to create a grassroots green lighting movement.

Importantly, the project is not only about the technology, but how Liter of Light works with communities by focusing on empowering locals to produce the lighting systems and be responsible for their own income.

There are currently more than 21 branches of the project around the globe and one of the leaders of the movement is the social entrepreneur Illac Diaz. Other notable ambassadors include the French comedian Jérôme Jarre, athletes Serena Williams and Usain Bolt, the singer Usher and many more local celebrities. The project was also part of the COP21 in Paris, where it was presented to a world-wide audience as part of the event’s bid to end energy poverty. Current supplier partners include Sika, Coral, Pepsi and Tiger, and their support enables the project to keep product costs low. In 2015, the project was awarded the Zayed Energy Prize and a World Habitat Award.

Liter of Light empowers communities by teaching local people basic electrical skills that enable them to make the devices themselves. There are still around 600 communities in the Amazon without a regular electricity supply and Liter of Light Brazil is aiming to teach and provide the technology to the riverside communities of Dominguinhos, Bararuá, Jacarezinho and São Jorge do Membeca.

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