Schools in remote, underserved villages in India are enlightening their students with an innovative — and free — source of light.

Workers assemble light kits

Workers build light kits out of recycled plastic bottles to be used as interior illumination at their school in India.

A simple Coke bottle, filled with water, a pinch of bleach and pieces of materials that reflect light, can produce a light bulb capable of emitting up to 55 watts.

The “Liters of Light” project was launched this summer in the remote villages of Kudus and Devgaon, near the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB) plant about 40 miles outside Mumbai.

The goal of the pilot initiative, a partnership with cleaning products maker Diversey India Private Limited, is to bring sources of light to students in far-flung schools.

How It Works

The process is amazingly simple. Take a recycled PET, or polyethylene terephthalate Coke bottle, drop in a little bleach to prevent mildew and mold, insert pieces of materials that reflect light and screw on the cap.

When the bottles are placed in a hole in the roof or in a window, they absorb and emit light from the sun.

Workers install light kits

Light kits, that use plastic bottles, are installed in the roof of a schoolhouse in India. The bottles can emit up to 55 watts.

High Praise

“The provision of light in the schools will truly benefit our children and enhance their learning opportunities,” says Milind Chaudhry, head of the Kudus village. “Education is very important for the development of the village kids, and we are grateful to have received this kind of support from HCCB."

Coca-Cola's involvement is part of its worldwide effort to promote recycling and reuse of its packaging around the world with new ideas and old products.

“This project is unique, as it uses existing resources and provides a solution,” says Durgesh Telang, a zonal vice president at Hindustan Coca-Cola. “We as a company are committed to energy conservation and sustainability."

Planners for the project hope to expand it to additional villages, with the help of community leaders and corporate sponsors such as Diversey, which installed the “Liters of Light” and donated the reflective materials inside them.

“This project meets both of the commitments that are part of our credo: to positively impact the lives of the communities we operate in and to function as a cautious and responsible organization that cares about the environment and its resources,” says George D'souza, Diversey's head of environment and safety.

Interior of a schoolhouse

Bottles filled with water, a small amount of bleach and reflective material poke through the roof of a schoolhouse in India. These bottles help illuminate the interior, giving the students additional light to work under.

Lighting schools is extemely important in India, a country of 1.2 billion where an estimated 40 percent of homes have no electricity, according to the World Bank. Demand far outstrips capability, leading power utilities to enforce rolling blackouts, known locally as "load shedding," across large portions of the country.

Similar efforts, through nonprofit global organizations such as My Shelter Foundation (which has brought light to people in the Philippines), also bring bottled light to residents in slums and shantytowns.

In India, Coca-Cola's “Liters of Light” costs its users nothing and illuminates schools and students.