A blog post from Chris Page, a recent graduate of the University of Iowa. He updates us on his excursion through Asia and his insight into sustainability:
One hundred and twelve pounds of carbon dioxide is what you would emit each year if you lit your home with five candles, four hours a day. Providing 91,500 lumens of light for the year, you wouldn’t be able to read a book or run a business with that little amount of light. Over several years of use, there is a good chance they would start a fire, or give you lung cancer from the benzene, soot and other carcinogens that they emit into the air.
In August, I began work with Proximity Designs in Myanmar to sell d.light solar lanterns to rural households in the country’s Ayerawady Delta and Dry Zone. Before I moved, the carbon emissions, health hazards and lighting capability associated with candles would have seemed trivial. But for the 95 percent of rural villagers in Myanmar without access to electricity, candles and diesel lamps are the only source of light at night. For them, a solar lantern can mean they can shop for farming tools in the evening, or that their children can pursue an education. In short, solar energy has the potential to transform the rural countryside in Myanmar.
The lights, which are as affordable as $10 per light, pay for themselves within a few months of savings from not buying diesel and candles. Built to last, they can survive a fall from a coconut tree, or a dip in the river. And perhaps most significant, they produce the same amount of light as twenty taper candles, all the while emitting no indoor air pollution or carbon dioxide.
Myanmar’s carbon emissions are negligible as a result of 40 years of military rule that stifled economic growth. People here deserve the same quality of life that Americans enjoy, and should not feel guilty for emitting carbon emissions to light their homes. But for most of the villagers with whom I interact, preventing carbon emissions is a major selling point. When they buy the solar lamps, they feel part of something bigger – something global. With the hard work of the Office of Sustainability and other environmentalists’ work throughout Iowa, I feel grateful that they are.
Chris Page, a 2011 graduate of the University of Iowa, welcomes all visitors passing through Asia. For more information on Myanmar, visit his blog at piablogs.princeton.edu/cpage