The Wayuu people of northern Colombia, who live in small rural villages called rancherias near the Venezuelan border and rely on fishing and artisan crafting for survival, have little access to electricity—like an estimated 759 million people in the world. Many of these communities are coastal, which inspired a starting point for a sustainable solution: seawater.
Colombian renewables startup Edina recruited creative agency Wunderman Thompson to help design the WaterLight, the winner of the Latin America category of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards. Inside the portable device, saltwater sparks an ionization reaction, producing enough electrical energy to generate light and charge phones and radios. Just half a liter of saltwater can produce 45 days of electricity.
The community played an active part in informing the lamp’s design: a weighted base to withstand wind and sand in a desert climate and to stand upright in fishing canoes; local artisan women knitted the hanging straps. “You see WaterLight, and you see Wayuu culture,” says Pipe Ruiz Pineda, executive creative director at Wunderman Thompson Colombia. About 50 Wayuu families now have Waterlights.