By Aye P Ubaldo
Fresh from the Papal visit this January, the Philippines found itself hosting another head of state. This time, French President Francois Hollande included Manila in his itinerary late this February to push his agenda for climate change. In his entourage was Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
After a day of volunteer work in Tacloban, Figueres purposely made a visit to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for the Liter of Light training.
Liter of Light is a zero-carbon solar lighting project operating in different cities around the country, implemented by the MyShelter Foundation founded by Illac Diaz. Liter of Light is recognized by the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change Initiative in 2011. It also recently won the 2015 Zayed Future Energy prize, non-profit organization in Abu Dhabi. The Zayed Future Energy prize is what one might call the “Oscars” of renewable technologies.
“From the first time I saw this bottle of solar light, I completely fell in love with it. To bring the light from the outside in is a basic right to be enjoyed. To do it with plastic bottles which would otherwise add to the waste makes it brilliant. And, bring down the cost of electricity in one package is really fantastic,” Figueres declared.
“Slowly but surely, Liter of Light’s bottles will be recognized internationally for being a fantastic solution. Not just for light under normal circumstances, but as seen in Tacloban, as a necessary solution,” said Figueres.
From its grassroots in 2011, Liter of Light has grown, largely in part due to the support of the UNFCCC Momentum of Change. “That support has allowed us to expand to 20 countries. From one carpenter, one soda bottle light, and one community in the Philippines, we now have installed 350,000 lights around the world,” said Abby Valdemoro, Chief Operating Officer of Liter of Light and MyShelter Foundation.
Since November 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan ravaged parts of the Philippines, Liter of Light has installed over 5,000 home lighting solutions in parts of Tacloban, Cebu and Iloilo with just 96 volunteers. Their open-source network has trained 76 local partners to make and install the solar lanterns in communities affected by heavy flooding and landslides.
Government units have approached MyShelter Foundation with the interest of learning. Pepsi was one of Liter of Light’s earliest corporate sponsors, and continues to extend support. Needless to say, corporate sponsors have since increased in number.
“We train how to build renewable, and low-cost technologies. Plus, we also use Internet and social media to enable skills to be taught easily. We offer livelihood to communities by offering training, and we use available parts. Because it is simple, it enables us to bring people on board easily,” Valdemoro adds.
From mere plastic bottles, the system has upgraded to a new, improved design that now connects to a solar panel. This upgrade allows the bottles to use daylight into night lights.
Liter of Light has a goal of delivering worldwide 1 million solar bottles, a million rays of hope for the world’s 1.3 billion people who do not have electricity.
“Solving climate change is doable, and we can do it while improving our lives. Liter of Light can bring light without being connected (to power grids). The beauty of it is in the use of the sun’s energy, which is available for free.”
Scanning the trainees at TESDA, Figueres remarked, “The average age in the room is way below mine, which is good news. You trainees are young, and are using skills and time and passion to do something that is very important for their own lives, and that of other people’s. You’re using your time very wisely. You are really bringing light to the world.”