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SoLight: Delivering Light In Our Hands

Solight Design provides sustainability in its lighting products while supplying lights to those in need. Know more about the company's story.


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The consumption of fossil fuels along with the pervasiveness of extreme poverty in 90% of the world has compromised the well being of our climate, ecology, economy, and safety. Extreme poverty and climate change are inextricably linked. 1.6 billion people live without access to electricity and spend up to 30% of their income on kerosene to light their world at night. This toxic fuel gives off black carbon emissions, compromising the health of the world’s most vulnerable people while adversely impacting our environment, globally. In the last 50 years there have been 200 species of animals that have become extinct, which is in direct correlation to the exponential use of fossil fuels. Climate change effects have also exacerbated internal conflict in regions of extreme poverty, indirectly creating millions of refugees.

unspecified-15 To provide solutions to these problems, Solight Design Founder Alice Min Soo Chun invented the Solar Inflatable light and the Solar Light Assembly. Solight’s first product called the SolarPuff, is the ideal solution for providing clean and affordable lighting to those living off the electrical grid as well as for the ecofriendly conscious in the First World. The beauty and elegance of this lantern has touted accolades from MoMA, Modern Museum of Art, the New York Times, and most recently the 2017 German Design Award for Lighting. Arguably the SolarPuff is the safest and most hygienic lantern available.

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SolarPuff is a patented flat-pack solar light with an adaptable, lightweight, and self- inflating design that emits zero carbon. The origami-inspired design allows for the quick pop-open function, resulting in a magic unfolding cube of light. There is no need to use your mouth to inflate, since the simple pull of the handles allows air to fill the expandable bladder in 2 seconds. Its Lithium- ion Polymer battery is recharged with a thin solar panel, so there is no need for batteries. It charges in approximately 8 hours, giving light that lasts for 8 to 12 hours. The SolarPuff is only 2.3 oz. and flat packs to 0.25 in so there is major cost savings in shipping. You can fit 120 in a box vs 8 in a box of conventional bulky hard plastic lanterns. It is the perfect solution for emergency relief and refugees in plight, where the most important things are food, water, and light.

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Solight’s CEO Alice Min Soo Chun realized the need for alternative solutions to harness energy after the birth of her son, who had severe asthma. The number of children with asthma has been increasing so rapidly, in NYC alone; 1 out of 4 children have asthma which is 40% higher than the rest of the country. The research shows pollution to be the underlying cause. As a species, the human gene pool should not be changing this soon, the reason has to be the environment. With the knowledge that solar energy is the most efficient source of renewable energy, Chun’s research then focused on innovations in harvesting solar energy. While a professor at Columbia University Chun received a grant to develop this research and started experimenting with photo-voltaics and thin film substrates.

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At Columbia University in 2010, in response to the devastating Haiti earthquake, Professor Chun turned her class into an innovation studio to research and design solutions to help Haiti. Chun rightly pointed out to her class that Haiti was really a microcosm of the rest of the world, the country. Haiti was and still is only 12% electrified. Most of the population was living on 3 dollars a day, and a quarter of humanity was spending what little money they had on deadly kerosene to light their world at night. It was in Professor Chun’s lab that the SolarPuff and the inflatable solar light were invented by Chun. Early prototypes were more like an inflatable pillow with a mouth nozzle to inflate, but Chun realized this was a dangerous detail for regions of poverty and for emergency response, due to lack of sanitation, and the eminent risk of Cholera and Ebola spreading. She continued improving the design by eliminating the need for a mouth nozzle by using a folded method and finding the perfect material, similar to sail cloth, that was engineered for strength yet soft enough to fold flat.

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In 2010, she started a non- profit with students called Focus Architecture Art and Making, FAARM. Early prototypes were distributed in the plateau region of Haiti and Chun was even invited by the Clinton Foundation for the Green Tech Expo, where she had the opportunity to present her invention to Bill Clinton and Haitian President Martelly. Chun then distributed 500 SolarPuff lanterns as part of a pilot project. For 5 years, FAARM measured the quality, effectiveness, and demand for good design in products for the under privileged. She wrote a book from the research called Ground Rules in Humanitarian Design, Wiley Press 2015.

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Chun realized that in order to get the SolarPuff product mass produced, she had to build a for profit company that could work in tandem with FAARM. Today Solight Design likes to call their business a For-Purpose company. Chun was joined by co-founder Stacy Kelly who supported her vision and Solight Design, Inc. was officially established in 2014. In December of 2015, Chun was granted the Utility Patent for the Solar Light Assembly and has a Patent pending for Solar Inflatable Light with a priority date of 2010. Alice Chun is literally on fire to change the world one SolarPuffTM at a time. She has become an unstoppable voice in the global solar energy community

Solight’s lantern distinguishes itself from other solar lanterns because of the belief that design matters in the First world and Third World. Solight Design fosters the belief of SMART DESIGN FOR ALL.

Most companies that sell to the underserved communities make products that are not designed with beauty, wonder or awe in mind. Solight believes design matters and design provides dignity to all people, no matter your socio-economic status in the world.

Solight manufactures and distributes in 25 different countries worldwide and is working on micro-lending models for distributors in regions of need. This holistic model works to empower and incentivize the local community in creating and sustaining revenue models that eliminate the need for kerosene, create economic independence and grow and thrive with their own governance.

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The company motto is “Together We Hold the Sun in Our Hands.” Solight has created a giving model, where 10% of retail sales goes to their Non-profit Partner FAARM working to bring clean, hygienic light to regions of need. Solight also donates a light to FAARM automatically with every sale of a 3 pack of the SolarPuffTM, Solar HelixTM, or MerlinTM.

In partnership with FAARM, and “world renowned” humanitarian, Alison Thompson, who also leads the global volunteer network, Third Wave Volunteers that is administered within FAARM, Solight delivers SolarPuffTM to “electricity poor” areas in need and provides training, aid, and kindness to marginalized communities. Solight and FAARM have a common commitment to develop sustainable solutions to improve conditions for vulnerable communities around the world. The result has co-benefits among the Sustainable Development Goals for health, biodiversity, and energy security.

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Burning kerosene has harmful health consequences on humans as well as devastation on ecology. In India alone there are at least 30,000 documented house fires each year. Kerosene lamps emit 270,000 tons of black carbon per year world-wide, creating climate warming equivalency of close to 240 million tons of CO2. According to the United Nations Development Programme “UNDP,” two million documented children die each year due to toxic kerosene fumes. New research findings by Independent Development Trust (IDT) as well as reports by the UNDP in Sub- Saharan Africa conclude that the wide scale use of solar powered lighting in rural communities offers many benefits including: positive health effects, enhanced safety, significant cost and time savings, and more school homework completed by “children a toxic free environment.” Building infrastructure would take billions of dollars and years to execute. People in rural areas still would not be able to access a grid. Many pillage the hillsides for wood in order to cook and eat. The ravaged land is an adverse direct result and acerbates the planets ability to cool green house gases. Carbon emissions from light bulbs connected to an electric grid cause billions of tons of carbon emissions in the United states and Europe. Regular light bulbs used every day, causes over 11 million tons of carbon emissions per year. Solight through Chun’s inventions address and mitigate these negative environmental impacts that contribute to global warming.

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Solight takes the SDG, Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations, very seriously and is working with the United Nations, as well as other NGOs such as Operation Blessings, to mitigate negative environmental impact caused by climate change and poverty.

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We all have the power to hold the sun in our hands. Solight’s solution is an ecosystem of smart well designed individualized infrastructure, local economic development, and community collaboration. It can all begin with one light.

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Robert Bagatsing
Managing Editor and Founder of GineersNow based in Dubai and Manila. Survived marketing at Harvard, Management at AIM and proud Bedan.

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