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Let There Be Light

More than 3 billion people around the world do not have access to “clean, reliable, and affordable energy”; to complete their everyday tasks, they have to use fuels and substances that actively harm the environment and sometimes endanger their wellbeing. More eco-friendly sources of lighting would equate to less air pollution and carbon emissions and thus contribute to the fight against climate change. Plus, more sustainable lighting would avert the health risks stemming from fuels like kerosene, allow health clinics and hospitals to keep their doors open later, prove crucial in lighting up entire communities hit by natural disasters, and even prevent accidental injury from walking around in the dark. Enter John Salzinger: recognizing how much of an impact better lighting could make on both the environmental and social fronts, he took it upon himself to deliver products that people and the planet could depend upon. Salzinger explained to Forbes that “it aligned with the values that had been ingrained by my parents: people and planet; everyone was equal. . . With what’s been going on with climate change, this was a perfect opportunity to change the world for the better and use business to do so.”

Salzinger’s company, MPOWERD – which stands for “Micro POWER Design” – provides a wide variety of affordable, portable, and lightweight solar-powered lights, including lanterns, string lights, bike lights, and Bluetooth-controlled smart lights. He launched MPOWERD and its first product, the Luci inflatable solar light, in 2012 after visiting Haiti in the wake of the earthquake that devastated the country. As he explained to Small Business Journal, “being in an earthquake-struck zone that’s been neglected politically, economically, globally through colonization up till now was very different for me. . . I knew I had an opportunity to affect change both globally on an environmental level as well as on the people level.” With the help of a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, the company covered upfront costs and had funneled 5,000 lights to Haiti by 2014, with 96 percent of Haitian survey respondents reporting a decrease in reliance on kerosene and 90 percent reporting a decrease in eye irritation and breathing issues. Since then, MPOWERD has provided assistance to those affected by other natural disasters, including the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal and the 2019 fires in California

Houses built on the mountains just outside of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Image provided by Heather Suggitt, Unsplash. 

As a for-profit corporation, MPOWERD has impacted the lives of more than 3,800,000 people in over 90 countries and averted more than 2,400,000 tons of carbon. Consumers can support these efforts by “give by shopping.” Every time a light is purchased consumers are helping the MPOWERD team expand access to clean energy because they reinvest most of their gross revenue into their mission: “the more we sell here at home, the more affordably we can sell to emerging markets and nonprofits.” Consumers can also “give by giving” through the Give Luci program: for $10, consumers can send a Luci light to MPOWERD’s nongovernmental organization (NGO) and nonprofit partners, who then distribute them on the ground. With over 700 such partners, including Habitat for Humanity, Oxfam, and the Salvation Army, MPOWERD’s influence is felt around the world.  

Additionally, corporations can “give by partnering,” particularly “through our corporate social responsibility program—cause marketing initiatives that actually increase loyalty. It brings them closer to the consumer, and they’re a better company for it,” as Salzinger explained to Forbes. Corporate partners can also make a difference by donating or even just purchasing products for their own use. Intel, Hewlett-Packard Company, Chase Bank, Staples, and CBS Corporation are just a few of the bigger names that have gotten involved.

Regardless of whether the lights are purchased by consumers in developed countries or distributed to those in need in developing ones, the quality of the lights never changes. Salzinger explains, “We make a product that works across all of those [markets]. So it’s good for camping, but at the same time it’s good for a refugee camp, and it’s the exact same product.” With the help of MPOWERD, the future looks bright for all. 


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