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Old Plastic Bottles Bring Light


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By Debra Atlas

PHILIPPINES — Millions of people in the Philippines live in (relative) darkness. The cost of electricity is beyond the means of many, so residents of poorer communities resort to candles or kerosene lamps, which pose serious health and fire hazards.

Using electricity 24 hours per day, something most of us take for granted, raises a household’s expenses by approximately 40 percent. In a country where the average income ranges from minimum wage to less than $1 a day, this added expense is not seen as crucial.

However, there is an incredibly simple solution that is both greener and safer.

The Solar Bottle Bulb was originally developed by students at MIT and spearheaded by Mac Diaz, the innovative founder of MyShelter Foundation. It uses plastic water bottles and a little bleach to bring light to the darkness.

To create the bulb, developers fit 1.5 liter plastic bottles containing water and bleach snugly into holes in a metal roof. Sunlight refracts through and off the water, creating free solar lighting equivalent to 55 or 60 watts of clean white light. The bleach inside the bottles prevents algae from forming inside them. The bottles do not heat up and are designed to produce clear light for approximately five years.

The MyShelter Foundation is currently distributing thousands of these lights to homeowners across the Philippines, where oftentimes homes are built so close together that little to no light can get through the windows.

The Isang Litrong Liwanag (“A Liter of Light”) project is a sustainable lighting project whose aim is to bring light to low-income communities. The organization envisions lighting 1 million homes by 2012. So far, they have distributed 10,000 solar bulbs.

The installation of these bulbs is brightening more than the homes they light: They are helping to create a better quality of life for entire communities.

Check out more articles by Debra Atlas.

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