The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


18 April 2016

2016 Winner Announced - Liter of Light Brazil

2016 Winner Announced - Liter of Light Brazil

A sustainable lighting project, which aims to empower communities without electricity in Brazil by teaching them how to create light sources, has won this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment.

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.

There are still around 600 communities in the Amazon without a regular electricity supply and Liter of Light aims to bring its project to the riverside communities of Dominguinhos, Bararuá, Jacarezinho and São Jorge do Membeca in Brazil.

At a ceremony at the University of St Andrews today, Vitor Belota Gomes, President of LITER OF LIGHT BRAZIL was presented with the winning prize of $100,000 USD. He says: 'We will now be able to expand our efforts in Brazil and bring light to those who need it most - families living in isolated riverine communities in the Amazon. Sometimes we don't realise how important light is for our lives, how it makes it possible for a child to read a book during the night, for parents to cook a meal or a doctor to treat the ill. This support from the St Andrews Prize for the Environment will help us improve peoples' lives and it will make a real difference within these communities.'

The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is a joint environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland and independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips. The Prize focuses on sustainability, conservation, biodiversity stewardship and community development supporting a wide range of projects from around the world on diverse topics including sustainable development, urban re-generation, recycling, health, water and waste issues, renewable energy and community development.

Lord Alec Broers, Chairman of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment Trustees says: ‘We are delighted to award this year’s prize to LITER OF LIGHT BRAZIL. The prize money will make a significant difference to their work and I am confident that they will continue to grow with the support and expertise of the wider St Andrews Prize for the Environment community. The Prize seeks to reward those who propose novel ways to preserve the environment and biodiversity with projects having the potential for broader application. This year’s submissions were no exception – with over 500 entries from around the world to choose from, the Screening Committee and Trustees were once again spoilt for choice with a wide range of submissions from people who are ultimately leading the way in their field of environmental conservation.’

This year’s runners-ups, each presented with a cheque for $25,000 USD were:

SPOUTS OF WATER – Ceramic Water Filters in East Africa

SPOUTS OF WATER provides clean drinking water to people in East Africa by manufacturing and distributing affordable ceramic water filters. An alternative to boiling water, the project installs filters in schools, prisons, refugee camps, police and army barracks and other public spaces.

The need for clean water is particularly critical in Uganda with roughly 25% of the population having little or no access to safe drinking water. Water-borne disease remains the leading cause of death for children under five in the country.

Centralised solutions for clean water are often ineffective. Tap water is not safe to drink as wells and boreholes are often contaminated. Ceramic water filters are a cost-effective, culturally acceptable and safe household solution.

Spouts of Water aims to create a profitable product that provides a sustainable solution to the clean water crisis. The organisation wants to provide clean drinking water to the people of East Africa and build a scalable model that can be replicated in other parts of the world.

MAMIRAUÁ INSTITUTE – Bringing Back an Amazon Giant

The MAMIRAUÁ INSTITUTE’s Fishing Management Programme is focused on increasing the population of an endangered species of fish called the Giant Arapaima. The project helps improve the prospects of isolated riverine communities in the Amazon, where fishing is essential to their survival and income.

In the 1980s, foreign boats began fishing deeper into the Amazon interior and overfishing caused the decline of populations of the Giant Arapaima, which is one of the most sought-after fish in the region. Alongside a permanent fishing ban of the species in 1996, Brazil’s last socioeconomic census showed that the 700+ thousand people who live in the region had the lowest Human Development index in the country.

The Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development was created in 1999 to monitor fish stocks in the region by involving fishermen’s associations and unions. The Institute aims to create a greater awareness of the project and to expand its partnership network to help scale the model to other places beyond South America.

Click here for full details on each of the finalists’ projects. 

Professor Garry Taylor, Acting Principal and Master of the United College, University of St Andrews says: ‘There are few issues of greater importance than the impact of climate change on our fragile environment and on some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. At the University of St Andrews, we are committed to playing our part in addressing global concerns. Already we are working towards becoming the UK's first carbon-neutral university. Our ground-breaking research in green energy and environmental protection is bringing new ideas to public policy. Meanwhile the St Andrews Prize for the Environment provides a concrete example of the way academic institutions, by working with industry and wider society, can change lives for the better. We will follow the work of this year's winner, LITER OF LIGHT BRAZIL, with great interest. We are proud to be supporting the next generation of creative thinkers designing sustainable solutions to improve the lives and environments of some of the world's most vulnerable communities.’

Dominic Macklon, President, UK for ConocoPhillips says: ‘ConocoPhilllips is committed to protecting the environment by ensuring our actions today not only provide the energy needed to drive economic growth and social well-being, but also secure a stable and healthy environment for the future. Our sponsorship of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment provides recognition for groups and individuals with innovative environmental ideas and gives them the opportunity to further develop and sustain life-changing projects. ‘

Since its launch in 1998, the St Andrews Prize for the Environment has attracted entries on topics as diverse as biodiversity, sustainable development in the Amazon and Central American rainforests, urban re-generation, recycling, health and water/waste issues and renewable energy.

Click here for the full list of previous winners and finalists.