In the poorest parts of the world they have a shortage of many things.

Two things they’re not short of are slums and heat.

The sun blazes down all day.

But strangely the inside of the slums is usually pitch black.

This is because they don’t have any windows.

They’re slums.

They’re just built from whatever discarded material can be found.

Usually old bricks or breeze-block for the wall, and rusty sheets of corrugated iron for the roof.

The main priority is simply shelter.

So, without windows, the inside is pitch black.

Some people manage to rig up a single, very dodgy overhead electric light bulb.

This of course creates more problems.

It’s very dangerous.

And it puts out a lot of heat.

Making a bad situation worse.

But one man has found a very creative solution to the problem.

Using another thing they have lots of in the slums.


What there is in abundance, is vast tips of empty plastic bottles.

He starts by taking a one litre clear-plastic bottle.

He fills it with clean water and adds a capful of bleach.

Then he cuts a hole into the corrugated iron roof.

Finally he glues the bottle in place, so it’s half inside and half outside the roof.

The bottle is now a very large lens.

The bright sunlight enters the top of bottle.

It’s reflected down through the water.

And out at the bottom, to illuminate the inside of the dwelling.

It’s roughly as powerful as a 75 watt lightbulb.

Each bottle brightly illuminates around 35 cubic feet of space.

You can have as many as you want in your roof, making the interior as bright as you want.

They’re perfectly safe, as there is no electricity.

The ingredients to make them are free, they’re on any rubbish tip.

The energy to run them is free.

Unlike electric bulbs they don’t create heat.

Unlike electric bulbs they don’t burn out.

Unlike electric bulbs they’re not dangerous.

The idea is spreading across the poorer countries.

In the Philippines, people use them in their dwellings.

In Brazil, people use them in their places of work.

And of course, it makes sense for the planet too.

While they’re saving themselves money, they’re conserving energy and recycling rubbish.

It’s a totally brilliant, creative idea.

But what I like best is what it tells us about ourselves.

We always look for the answer in what’s new.

Because that’s easy.

We don’t have to think.

But the answer isn’t always in what’s new.

The answer might be new ways of thinking about what’s around.

Always looking for what’s new just makes us lazy.

Always searching for the latest gimmick keeps our minds stuck in a rut.

We don’t need to keep searching for what’s new.

We need new thinking about what already exists.

But of course that’s more difficult.

That takes more effort.

That takes thought.

We need to be creative.

We don’t need more stuff.

We need to find ways to get more from the stuff we’ve already got.

That’s our most vital natural resource.

Our brains.