Photo credit: aliteroflight.org
A big problem with green technology is that it is not affordable for the developing world. Less than 1% of these areas actually benefit from the eco-friendly advances becoming available. To encourage environmentally sustainable development, we need to create green solutions that are accessible to everyone so these countries can begin progressing on the right foot. MyShelter Foundation has taken an innovative and progressive approach to this theory by providing "uncommon solutions for common problems" through plastic bottles, human skill and good old fashioned empowerment.
This foundation started by asking itself how it could become an "NGO 2.0." Its answer was to find creative ways to encourage sustainable development by converting charity to a top-down methodology. Top-down, meaning you start with something already available and find a way to use it instead of finding something a community needs and using a traditional solution.
Empowering the poor through innovative upcycling
MyShelter accomplished this by finding something that everyone has and is typically wasted – plastic bottles – and turning them into something that everyone needs – schools and light. However, what makes MyShelter even more unique is its approach to empowerment. Instead of hiring outside contractors to build and install, it came up with ideas that take available resources and basic skills and create jobs in developing communities. This allows the profit to stimulate the local economy while improving the quality of life therein. It's like the old saying – "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
MyShelter started off using plastic bottles to build schools in the Philippines. Volunteers and community residents filled bottles with adobe, a substance stronger than concrete and assembled them with steel bars into walls and roofs, creating a storm proof school. There was only one problem; the schools had no interior lighting. To solve this, the foundation began installing water-filled bottles between the adobe-filled bottle bricks and the results were astonishing. One of these bottles puts out the same amount of light as a 55-watt bulb. MyShelter called these sun-reliant bottle lights "solar bottle bulbs" and established its Liter of Light program.
More than a light source
Liter of Light has brought light to hundreds of thousands of home in the Philippines and other developing countries. But this project hasn't only brought light, sticking to MyShelter's approach, it has brought jobs to the community, as well. Solar bottle bulbs have made this possible because they are incredibly easy to create and install.
- Cut a hole in a sheet of metal that will fit a plastic bottle.
- Insert and glue the plastic bottle inside this hole.
- Fill the plastic bottle with water and a little bit of bleach to prevent algae growth.
- Seal the bottle cap and install it on a roof with the bottle peeking inside of the home like a traditional light bulb.
Something this simple has changed the lives of nearly 1 million people who lived in darkness because they either couldn't afford or didn't have access to electricity. The families that were previously spending money to light their homes can now use that money to feed, clothe and educate themselves and their children. On top of that, this project is sustainable in a very progressive way. Developing countries often don't have the facilities to properly dispose of waste which, until now, included these plastic bottles. This upcycling technology does more than light homes; it also recycles bottles, reduces waste and creates jobs.