A friend of mine, Mark Bent, is giving away 500 of his solar flashlights to people who are traveling or who are in positions to help his idea spread.
If you plan on traveling in the near future of you can help spread this idea, send him your story and he’ll send you an awesome solar flashlight absolutely free.
This is actually one of the most interesting business ideas I’ve seen recently, and I spent a summer working with Mark on this project as a volunteer.
The flashlight is the best and only one that I own (I have one of the older models, see picture below). It is light weight, durable, and best of all…always charged! I just leave it in the windowsill. It can go 6 hours on a single days charge just from sunlight (which is leaps and bounds ahead of any other “rechargeable” flashlight I’ve seen like those ones with the crank on it that provides light for about 30 seonds, literally).
But this idea is actually much bigger than just making a better flashlight. Here’s why:
Most people don’t realize that in the developing world, 2 Billion people (1/3 of the planet) don’t have access to clean, affordable light. In Ethiopia for example, something like 3% of the population is connected to the electric grid. What people use for light is primarily kerosene lanterns (which is costly, a fire hazard, and causes smoke inhalation problems) and battery powered flashlights (which are, again, expensive, and also pollute when batteries are discarded).
What this means is that is that if you work all day, then when the sun goes down things are very different. If you’re a child, you can’t do homework. There are literally children in the world who try to do homework under a streetlight and hope it stays on for a least a half hour each night. If you’re a woman, you may not feel (or be) safe at night. No matter who you are in the developing world, the cost of kerosene or batteries for light can be a substantial part of your income just to get an hour or two of light in the evening.
It’s really hard to overstate the impact that clean, affordable light could have on the developing world. Here are a few issues:
Education: This is the biggest one in my mind. Many children have to work during the day in farming or crafts for their family. Even if they go to school, without light at night they can never learn to read, do math, etc which will have the biggest long term effect on a country.
Environment: Kerosene lanterns contribute green house gases and disposed batteries are toxic.
Health: Smoke inhalation and fire are both health concerns in the developing world. In addition, without light the lack of activities at night and rape both contribute to the spread of aids.
Economy: The cost of kerosene or batteries to someone who subsists on just a few dollars be day is a large percentage of their income. Once energy for light becomes free (from the sun), that money can now be diverted into starting a business, health care, etc.
Anyway, if you’ve got a cool story, send it to Mark.
Or if you just want one for personal use, he has a ”buy one give one” program that is a really good deal. For $25 he’ll send you one and also send one to the developing world, including shipping.
Until next time, keep breaking free! Brian Armstrong
P.S. Congrats to this blog breaking the 1000 subscriber mark! It’s been a little more than a year since I got started. I think the next 1000 will go ever faster as we build momentum. Thanks to everyone who subscribed and commented!