Not Every Innovation is Rocket Science

By Aaron Smethurst

Have you ever looked at an empty liter of soda and thought to yourself “I bet that bottle could light a house?” If you’re like me, I bet the answer is no. But that’s just what a group in the Philippines has set out to do.

With the help of a group of engineers from MIT, the My Shelter Foundation began the “Liter of Light” project. The idea behind the project is remarkably simple: the foundation takes a recycled liter bottle and fills it with a solution of water and bleach. The bottle is then carefully inserted into the metal roofs of houses. The water in the bottle refracts the sun’s rays inside the house, lighting the room beneath. Amazingly, the bottle emits the same amount of light as a 60 watt light bulb and can last for up to five years.

With the cost of electricity outrageously high and homes in the shantytowns packed so tightly together, you would be hard pressed to find houses with sufficient lighting without this project. Illac Diaz, the Executive Director of the My Shelter Foundation, explains “A liter of light lights up the house, saves a lot, but at the same time improves the standard of living across the board for the bottom 90% of this country.”

In essence, the true beauty of the project lies in its simplicity.

When you think about innovation, you may think of the next new smartphone, life-saving medicine, or chart-topping jam. But you should also think of folks like Mr. Diaz, using recycled bottles to light rooms, one house at a time. The Liter of Light project is perfect reminder that innovation doesn’t always have to be complicated. In fact, sometimes all it takes is a clever mind, eager hands, and a little perseverance to help spread innovative new technologies in surprising places.

For more information on the Liter of Light project, visit their website or check out this video on YouTube. Know other people that are promoting innovation in the most unlikely circumstances? Shoot us an email ( and let us know!

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