Back in November I was fortunate enough to visit Durham’s Lumiere Festival for the third time. The light festival takes over the historic city for four days, with a projection onto Durham Cathedral as its centrepiece. One of the smaller installations brought attention to a simple invention which is changing the lives of millions around the world with just three everyday components: a plastic drinks bottle, water and a few drops of bleach.
In 2002 Alfredo Moser, a Brazilian mechanic, had a “light bulb moment” when he realised he could illuminate his house by cutting a hole in his roof and inserting a plastic bottle filled with water and a little bleach (the chlorine prevents the growth of algae). The shape of the bottle defracts the sunlight, doing the job of a light bulb without the need for electricity. The simple invention didn’t bring Alfredo riches, but in this interview with the BBC World Service it’s clear the pride he has for his money-saving invention.
Often the simplest ideas, without the controls of copyright or patents, can spread the fastest and do the most good. By 2011 this modest invention had found its way to the Philippines (a country with the most expensive electricity prices in Asia) and was picked up by the MyShelter Foundation who began Liter of Light, a project to illuminate the households of 28,000 residents. Their work has quickly spread to help more people living in poor areas all over the world.
The project has been a great success in illuminating people’s homes during the day, but the bottle light bulbs only work when the sun is shining. However this hasn’t held back the folks at Liter of Light who have developed a simple and sustainable solution to adapt the existing bottle bulbs to work after dark. By fitting a simple circuit, solar panel and LED light to the top of the bottle, the sunlight can now brighten the house by day and charge up the LED to take over at night.
Small ideas really can make a huge difference if we share them, so if you think this is a story worth telling, please spread the word using the social media buttons below.
Our ‘Design Can Change the World’ series will highlight innovative and ethical design ideas improving the lives of people around the world. If you’ve come across any creative ideas which make a difference and deserve to be shared, please let us know in the comments and we’ll write about our favourites.