Bringing light to the poor, one liter at a time

Mon Jul 11, 2011 11:55pm EDT
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By Michaela Cabrera

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - Plastic bottles jut from the roofs in one Manila slum neighborhood, mushrooming across rows and rows of shanty homes. But they aren't just bottles -- they bring light.

Using the simplest of technologies to brighten dim and dreary shanties, the bottles, which contain bleach and water, are placed snugly into a purpose-built hole in the roof. They reflect sunlight and spread it through the room beneath.

As a result, the project calle "Isang Litrong Liwanag," which means A Liter of Light, helps some of the poorest Philippines residents save money and live better -- in a renewable way.

"If you can make a grassroots revolution wherein each and every person can have an improvement of life with green technology, then that little -- if added together -- can cumulatively improve... Filipino living," said Ilac Diaz, an eco-entrepreneur who launched the project.

"So A Liter of Light lights up the house, saves a lot but at the same time improves the standard of living across the board, of the bottom 90 percent of this country."

The idea was influenced by similar endeavors in the Middle East and Brazil, as well as by a project by a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

More than 10,000 of the bottle lights have been installed across metropolitan Manila and the nearby province of Laguna in the last three months through the efforts of low income communities, local governments and private partners.

"'That's only water?' my neighbors were asking. 'That's only water,' I said to them," said Erlinda Densing, a mother of eight whose 20-meter-square home is now illuminated by a bottle light as bright as a lightbulb.   Continued...