St Andrews Prize for the Environment 2016 winners announced

Thursday 21 April 2016


A sustainable lighting project, which aims to empower communities without electricity in Brazil by teaching them how to create light sources, has won this year’s St Andrews Prize for the Environment.

As many as 1.3 billion people in the world and more than 3 million people in Brazil suffer from energy poverty. Liter of Light is a global open-source movement that provides sustainable lighting, free of charge to simple dwellings around the world. The simple device consists of a plastic bottle filled with water and bleach, fitted through the roof of a home to refract sunlight. The device provides the same amount of light as a 55 Watt light bulb and produces zero carbon emissions. The technology can also be upgraded with LED bulbs, solar panels and batteries to provide low-cost lighting at night.

There are still around 600 communities in the Amazon without a regular electricity supply and Liter of Light aims to bring its project to the riverside communities of Dominguinhos, Bararuá, Jacarezinho and São Jorge do Membeca in Brazil.

At a ceremony at the University of St Andrews today, Vitor Belota Gomes, President of Liter of Light Brazil was presented with the winning prize of US$100,000. He said: “We will now be able to expand our efforts in Brazil and bring light to those who need it most – families living in isolated riverine communities in the Amazon. Sometimes we don’t realise how important light is for our lives, how it makes it possible for a child to read a book during the night, for parents to cook a meal or a doctor to treat the ill. This support from the St Andrews Prize for the Environment will help us improve peoples’ lives and it will make a real difference within these communities.”

The St Andrews Prize for the Environment is a joint environmental initiative by the University of St Andrews in Scotland and independent exploration and production company ConocoPhillips. The Prize focuses on sustainability, conservation, biodiversity stewardship and community development supporting a wide range of projects from around the world on diverse topics including sustainable development, urban re-generation, recycling, health, water and waste issues, renewable energy and community development.

Professor Garry Taylor, Acting Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrewssaid: “There are few issues of greater importance than the impact of climate change on our fragile environment and on some of the world’s most vulnerable populations. At the University of St Andrews, we are committed to playing our part in addressing global concerns. Already we are working towards becoming the UK’s first carbon-neutral university. Our ground-breaking research in green energy and environmental protection is bringing new ideas to public policy. Meanwhile the St Andrews Prize for the Environment provides a concrete example of the way academic institutions, by working with industry and wider society, can change lives for the better. We will follow the work of this year’s winner – Liter of Light Brazil – with great interest. We are proud to be supporting the next generation of creative thinkers designing sustainable solutions to improve the lives and environments of some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.”

Dominic Macklon, President, UK for ConocoPhillips said: “ConocoPhillips is committed to protecting the environment by ensuring our actions today not only provide the secure and affordable energy needed to support social well-being and drive economic growth, but also secure a stable and healthy environment for the future. Our sponsorship of the St Andrews Prize for the Environment provides recognition for groups and individuals with innovative environmental ideas and gives them the opportunity to further develop and sustain life-changing projects.”

Since its launch in 1998, the St Andrews Prize for the Environment has attracted entries on topics as diverse as biodiversity, sustainable development in the Amazon and Central American rainforests, urban re-generation, recycling, health and water/waste issues, and renewable energy.

This year’s runners-ups, each presented with a cheque for US$25,000 were:

  • Spouts of Water – Ceramic Water Filters in East Africa
  • Mamirauá Institute – Bringing Back an Amazon Giant

The Mamirauá Institute’s Fishing Management Programme is focused on increasing the population of an endangered species of fish called the Giant Arapaima. The project helps improve the prospects of isolated riverine communities in the Amazon, where fishing is essential to their survival and income.

Notes to editors

Pictured (left to right): Dominic Macklon, Garry Taylor and Vitor Belota Gomes

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 46 7310 or [email protected].

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