Liter of LightLiter of Light is an affordable initiative that offers sustainable lighting solutions to areas where power is scarce. The project was founded by Illac Diaz in 2011 through the MyShelter Foundation in the Philippines. It is a do-it-yourself (DIY) project that was invented by Alfredo Moser in 2002 to provide indoor lighting using sunlight.

Why This Project Was Needed

In the Philippines, almost 20 million people live below the poverty line and work low-paying jobs without basic amenities like adequate housing. Many homes are small and lack windows, which limits natural light. The cost of electricity is also high, at $0.181 per KWH, making it difficult for those below the poverty line to afford it. Additionally, natural disasters such as typhoons, landslides, cyclones and floods are common, which can leave people without power for months. Given these challenges, people are seeking affordable solutions to help them manage power outages.

How It Works

Liter of Light is a DIY project that involves using recycled plastic water bottles filled with a mixture of distilled water and bleach. It’s a climate-friendly project that doesn’t emit any carbon emissions, making it a completely green option. The bottles are installed on steel roofs and can reflect up to 55 watts of brightness with direct sunlight. To maximize the project’s benefits at night, it can be upgraded with solar panels, which can store approximately 10 hours of energy and power LED lights.

The organization encourages the women cooperatives to create this project from scratch, to generate job opportunities by selling the final product in local markets at reasonable prices. The purchasing kits include all the necessary installation details and instructions and these are also available on social media platforms such as YouTube.

Impact on the World

This initiative is active in 15 countries, including Columbia, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Italy, among others. In the Philippines alone, the project has brought light to 145,200 households, benefiting a total of 353,600 globally. Thanks to this innovation, people no longer need to use hazardous kerosene lamps that pose a risk of fire and respiratory problems. Additionally, these cost-effective lamps help households save money on their electricity bills. The project has also installed streetlights that are affordable and visually appealing within communities. The government encourages women and individuals with disabilities to participate in training programs, empowering them to produce products for public use and earn a living.

In 2014, following the devastating typhoon Haiyan, two companies, Roche and Pepsi, generously provided a grant of $57,000 to fund training and equipment for this project. Roche continued to donate funding for equipment in subsequent years, which enabled the Liter of Light to generate sales of $15,230 by selling kits to other organizations.

In December 2018, the organization collaborated with Peace Boat to embark on a world journey from Japan to various parts of Asia, South America and Africa. This initiative, named Voyage of Light, aimed to spread awareness of effective projects to indigenous island communities in Madagascar, Samoa, Brazil, Tahiti and beyond. To achieve this, they organized educational training programs, community visits and practical training camps to help people understand the project’s significance. This journey concluded in March 2019. With all these initiatives, this project is spreading the light in millions of people’s lives.

– Gurjot Kaur
Photo: Flickr

Help People in PovertyMore than 700 million people globally are living in extreme poverty. Through the use of creativity and innovation, individuals and organizations have come up with inventions to help people in poverty improve their living conditions.


In 2019, 770 million people globally did not have access to electricity and most of these people reside in Africa. In 2010, four Harvard undergraduates developed the SOCCKET ball so that impoverished people could have an alternative light source in their homes. The kinetic energy stored in the durable soccer ball is generated through kicking. The ball can then be used to power an LED lamp. During the day, children can kick the soccer ball around for fun. At night, it can then be used as a power source. With 30 minutes of movement, the ball can power an LED lamp for three hours.

The SOCCKET ball requires further revision and development because people have reported durability issues. However, the concept can inspire other innovative energy inventions.

The Wonderbag

Open fire cooking contributes to respiratory diseases and greatly impacts the health of people. Unfortunately, more than three billion people around the world do not have another means of cooking. Open fire cooking also means that girls and women lose a significant amount of time and labor that could be better used for educational and developmental endeavors.

The Wonderbag is a non-electric slow cooker created to help eliminate the need to cook over fires. After bringing a pot of food to the boil and placing it in the insulated Wonderbag, the food will continue cooking for up to 12 hours without additional heat. The Wonderbag has a range of positive benefits. It reduces indoor air pollution by 60% and saves 1,000 hours that would otherwise be lost in unpaid labor.


Since many impoverished people do not have access to electricity, they usually also do not have refrigerators to store food optimally.

The Evaptainer is a portable refrigerator that can prolong the life of food in warmer climates. The eco-friendly container does not need electricity due to its innovative cooling technology. The Evaptainer can also store medicines like insulin.

Liter of Light

Liter of Light is a global, grassroots movement that uses inexpensive materials to provide solar lighting to impoverished people without access to electricity. It began in 2011 with the aim of providing low-income communities in the Philippines a source of light. Recycled plastic bottles filled with water and bleach are secured into the roof to provide lighting daytime. The bottle lights can be upgraded with micro-solar panels and LED bulbs for low-cost night lighting. Liter of Light has installed more than 350,000 bottle lights in more than 15 countries.

Although poverty continues to be a global issue, people around the world are creating new inventions to help people living in conditions of poverty. These small innovations are working to change the lives of millions, one invention at a time.

Camryn Anthony
Photo: Flickr

DIY innovationsTechnological advancements have improved the lives of millions of people worldwide, but production, transportation, marketing and storage costs can mean that the world’s poorest communities, and those who need technology the most, do not have access to innovations that could improve their lives. Many communities in need have had to get creative and use do-it-yourself (DIY) innovations to better access everyday necessities, such as water and electricity, at little to no cost.

As a result, inventors and organizations have created low-cost, energy-efficient and locally-sourced technologies that can be made and used by communities in the poorest regions of the world. While generally low-tech, these homemade innovations provide incalculable benefits and opportunities for poor populations. Below are some simple DIY innovations that are improving the lives of poor communities.

Biosand Filters

A biosand filter is an adaptation of a traditional sand filter that cleans and purifies dirty water of dirt, bacteria and pathogens. Biosand filter systems can be purchased, but because of their simple design, they can also be made locally using common materials and simple instructions available online. In its most basic set-up, the biosand filter requires only a container, clean gravel and sand. The sand layer in the filter traps and kills bacteria as the micro-organisms get stuck and feed on each other. More organisms die because of lack of food and light further down in the sand layer and into the gravel.

Childbirth Kits

Childbirth can be a dangerous and life-threatening process in the developing world. In remote areas, getting to a hospital may take hours and care may cost more than the mother can afford. For example, 60 percent of African women give birth without someone who can safely deliver the baby.

A birthing kit may help ease birth and ensure the survival of both mother and baby. While many organizations create high-end, comprehensive birthing kits, organizations such as Midwives for Haiti and the Birthing Kit Foundation Australia create simple, effective birthing kits for as little as two U.S. dollars. Expecting mothers may even create their own kits. These kits include soap, a clean blade to cut the umbilical cord, a clean cord to tie the umbilical cord and a clean sheet for the mother and baby to lie on after delivery. Along with clean childbirth practices, the World Health Organizations estimates that these kits could help avert 6 to 9 percent of the 1.16 million newborn deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

Electrocardiography (ECG) Pads and Conductive Gel

By 2020, cardiovascular diseases are predicted to be the leading cause of death in most developing nations. Thus, machines that provide early detection and monitoring are extremely important. Since Electrocardiograph (ECG) machines are a basic technology found in most hospitals and clinics and because ECG tests are rapid, non-invasive and require minimal technical expertise to operate, they are an effective and cost-efficient technology, especially in impoverished areas.

ECG machine pads and conductive gel are disposable and highly useful in hospitals and clinics, but considering their high demand, replacing these supplies can be expensive, and more remote clinics may not receive regular shipments of supplies. Engineers of Engineering World Health have developed the idea for cheap, easily made ECG pads using brass snaps and the plastic lining of bottle caps. Their homemade conductive gel is just as simple to make from water, salt, flour and bleach. All the materials to make the pads and gel easily available and cheap, thus more easily accessible to poor communities in need of DIY innovations.

Rain Barrels

Nearly 844 million people worldwide lack access to clean water. Rain can be a precious alternative water source for poor regions. Although a simple concept, a good rain barrel or rain-fed pots and cisterns are simple and easy ways to collect drinking water. Rain barrels can be made using any sort of opaque bucket or large pot to prevent algae growth. Cutting a hole near the bottom of the container creates a spout for easy access to the water, and a simple screen placed over the top of the rain barrel keeps a majority of insects, particularly mosquitoes, out of the water. According to World Wildlife Fund, the average roof can collect around 600 gallons of water for every inch of rain. Capturing even a fraction of that water can help many poor households get enough water to survive.

Solar Water Bottle Light Bulbs

An estimated 14 percent of the world lives without electricity, with most of those without electricity living in rural, developing and poor regions. This lack of access to electricity means that many households do not have even simple technologies, like light bulbs. Luckily, the My Shelter Foundation found an inventive and simple way to bring accessible light to dark slums in Manila. Closely packed houses in slums get little light,.but a plastic water bottle filled with water and a drop of bleach solves this problem. By attaching the water bottles to holes in the roofs of these houses, light refracts from outdoors into the house, just like an electricity-dependent light bulb. The light bulb can last for five years before the water needs to be switched out.

These simple DIY innovations utilize materials readily available to poor residents, creating an accessible and usable innovation. Unfortunately, these light bulbs are only functional when the sun is out. So, the Liter of Light project, launched in 2012 by the My Shelter Foundation solved that problem as well. Adding a test tube with a small LED light into the water bottle and powering it with a small, inexpensive solar panel makes these water bottle light bulbs fully functional during cloudy days and at night. The organization’s simple light bulb can light a room up to 50 square meters for a minimum of 12 hours, powered by a 10 watt solar panel, and they have even been used outdoors as street lamps, creating safer communities.

Since 2012, these simple lightbulbs have lit 850,000 households across over a dozen countries such as the Philippines, Egypt, and Columbia.

Water Distillers

Water distillers are another DIY innovation that can be made easily with common household materials to make water safe to drink and free of.salt, heavy metals, bacteria, and other contaminants. Homemade and solar-powered distillers work by mimicking the natural water cycle; as the sun provides heat energy, pure water evaporates, leaving behind impurities. When the water condenses again, it can be collected and safely drunk.

Gaza resident Fayez al-Hindi created and built his own homemade, solar-powered water distiller. His concrete tank holds the water and the elevated glass collects the clean, evaporated water. An even simpler version of al-Hindi’s distiller can be made from two plastic water bottles attached together. Leaving the bottles in the sun at an angle allows the rising evaporated water to condense in the clean empty bottle, away from the dirty water. While these solar-powered distillers provide clean, safe-to-drink water, the evaporation and condensation process takes a long time. Al-Hindi’s distiller can make 2.6 gallons of water a day, but, because of their simple design, homemade water distillers may be an important innovation that is most accessible to the poorest communities.

These DIY innovations not only physically improve the lives of people in poverty, but they encourage independence, creativity, and self-empowerment in poor regions of the world. High-tech inventions like water distillers and light bulbs can be made from cheap and local materials, and show that life improvement need not always rely on aid from foreign countries, but on creative innovations.

– Maya Watanabe
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Bleach Bottle LightsFor impoverished nations around the world, electricity is a luxury. In 2014, 1.2 billion people in the world lived without it. Many households used kerosene lamps as a source of light, but these were dangerous because of the risk of fire and number of fumes that the lamps emit. Bleach bottle lights may be a viable solution.

A project called Liter of Light has a solution. Its creators discovered that plastic bottles filled with a mixture of water and bleach “refract the light from outdoors into the house, lighting up much like a light bulb.” When placed on the roof of a house the bottle becomes an adequate and inexpensive source of light.

The project began in 2012 in the Philippines with the nonprofit MyShelter Foundation. The bleach bottle lights were an original idea of Alfredo Moser who shared it with the MyShelter Foundation, eventually developing into the Liter of Light project.

The life expectancy of one of these bleach bottle lights is five years. Since the concoction is simply one liter of water and three milliliters of bleach, it is cheap and easy to replace.

By using plastic bottles for the bleach bottle lights, communities reduce the amount of garbage they produce. Per the World Economic Forum, “eight million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year.” In places like the Philippines where the number of disposed of plastic bottles is one of the highest in the world, the Liter of Light project kills two birds with one stone.

Since the bottle only works with sunlight, Liter of Light came up with a solution for night time. Huffington Post stated, “by slipping a test tube with a small LED light bulb into the bottle, which in turn is hooked up to a mini-solar panel, the bottle can still refract light during the day, but then also be used as a light bulb at night.”

The overall goal for the Liter of Light project is to provide poor countries with a sustainable alternative to electricity in homes with the bleach bottle light. This is crucial because they cannot afford to pay for expensive repairs when the country is struggling financially. Bleach and water are much more accessible in the communities than electrical materials.

As of now, the bleach bottle lights provide a source of light to homes in 15 different countries. The bottles containing the LED light bulbs are the most popular amongst the 850,000 homes that rely on them.

The Liter of Light project won the 2015 Zayed Future Energy Prize and the 2014-2015 World Habitat Award for its work installing bleach bottle lights into hundreds of thousands of homes. The United Nations now uses the technology in its UNHCR camps. Within the next three years, the organization hopes to reach one million people and brighten up the world.

Mackenzie Fielder

Photo: Liter of Light


Fiat lux! Let there be light! A timeless phrase that has been used since biblical times, in classrooms and even in movies has a more humanitarian and sustainable meaning since 2011. MyShelter Foundation, a ‘green-energy for all’ organization, began the Liter of Light project out of a simple idea to light up the homes of those who could not afford to do so themselves. With the help of MIT students, the technology of empty water bottles, water, bleach, and a slab of cement has taken the place of electricity and changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

The first installments began in Manila, Philippines. Since electricity rates are so high, families are forced to keep the lights off during the day. Due to the infrastructure of the homes in many of the poorer areas, however, light does not enter the homes during the day and families are left in darkness.

Building the makeshift light bulbs is easy and requires little to no maintenance. 1 liter plastic bottles are taken, filled with a small amount of bleach to keep the water and bottle clean and free of germs, then filled with water. When sunlight enters the bottle, enough light is produced that equals that of a 55-watt light bulb! The benefits of the water bottle bulbs are endless. Not only do they eliminate the need for electricity during the day, but they also reduce monthly electricity costs, are sustainable, help keep slums free of plastic waste, are easy to install, and add a greater sense of well being to the home environment.

Since 2011, Isang Litrong Liwanag (the translation of Liter of Light in Filipino) has spread to other countries such as Cambodia, India, Vietnam, Spain, Egypt, Peru, Kenya, the Middle East, and even Switzerland. MyShelter hopes to reach its goal of installing 1 million water bottle light bulbs by 2015.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: A Liter of Light