The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


14 May 2018



2 years ago, a young man named Vitor Belota Gomes was waiting in a lobby when, out of seemingly nowhere, he began to celebrate. Vitor had just received a very important email to say that Liter of Light Brazil, of which he was President, had just been shortlisted for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2016.

“I was in a waiting room, like a lobby, when I saw the email. I immediately stood up and started to celebrate! Because the $25,000 meant that we were already winners and with that money we could start the project in the Amazon.”

What followed in the subsequent months surpassed Vitor, and Liter of Light’s, wildest expectations. Following Vitor’s presentation at St Andrews University, the organization went on to win the top prize and collect the $100,000 prize money.   

“As you can see in the video that St Andrews shot, I was very happy and excited! It was and still is one of the happiest days I have in my mind! I was confident I had done my best and my intuition was telling me we would win. But it just became true after Lord Alec said: the winner this year is…Liter of Light!”

Liter of Light is a sustainable light project which aims to empower communities without electricity, teaching them how to create their own light sources. Consisting of a plastic bottle filled with water and bleach, the device fits through the roof of the home to refract sunlight.

“Liter of Light has three guiding principles. The materials used should be sourced locally and be easy to replace. The skills needed to manufacture the light sources should be minimal and lastly and the project should contribute to the livelihood of local communities. We are proud that LITER OF LIGHT empowers communities by teaching local people basic electrical skills that enable them to make the devices themselves and generate their own source of income.” 

With the prize money and increased exposure of the project, winning the Prize brought Liter of Light closer to their next goal of teaching and providing the technology to the riverside communities of Dominguinhos, Bararuá, Jacarezinho and São Jorge do Membeca.

“The project scaled more than 1000% afterwards. We are now one of the biggest and most known NGOs in Brazil, mostly in the energy field. Liter of Light is now with over 240 volunteers and we hired 6 full-time employees so far.

“We are going to keep expanding. The best news is that we were given a government benefit that is paid from energy companies, where they fit us into their energy efficiency fund. Basically what that means is that we have access to a lot of resources and we are growing exponentially.”

A keen ambassador for the St Andrews Prize for the Environment, Vitor is also happy to share his knowledge and experience with the Prize to help other applicants.

“The St Andrews Prize has allowed us to grow and move onto the next steps in our journey.

“The Prize money was obviously a huge benefit to Liter of Light because it helped us to scale the project and it was that seed money that started everything and led us to achieve all we have achieved so far. But beyond the money, the prize brought us more visibility and public awareness.

“We’d encourage anyone to enter the St Andrews Prize. The main thing is to do your best to show your impact, both with numbers but also (and mostly) by touching the heart of whoever is reading your application.

“Show your passion for the cause and that you understand everything about that social problem and how to solve it. If you are already big, show that the money can still make a big difference and if you are a small organisation, show them that you can handle the money and will make the most of it to help you get bigger and improve your impact in the world.“

Find out more about Liter of Light through the website.