In undeveloped nations such as Eritrea, Haiti, or Cameroon, light is a luxury. Mark Bent thinks that's unacceptable.
Bent, a former American diplomat and Houston oilman, is CEO and founder of SunNight Solar, a company that has created solar powered flashlights that they are now spreading throughout the world by way of private donors, the United Nations and organizations such as Direct Relief International.
The Takeaway ran into Bent at the Greener Gadgets Conference in New York City on February 27th, where he happily pulled apart his product for us. The flashlights, the shape of which reminded me of a Pantene-Pro V shampoo bottle, are made of LED lights and a plastic case. They nab their power from three recyclable batteries that are re-charged by a solar panel that graces the side of the flashlight. In total, the panel provides power for up to 2,000 nights, and the batteries last about two years.
Bent was at the conference to participate in an expert panel titled, "Green Design For Good." When asked about using plastic in his product (a material that doesn't scream sustainability) Bent replied, "I'm willing to live with ABS plastic because I can get people to read." The former Navy man's flashlight do more than help people read. They cut down on the need for kerosene lanterns, which improves lung health, as well as allow villages and refugee camps to function safely after dark. Women are protected from sexual assault, refugees can use the lamps to deter thieves, and farmers can keep away wild animals.
Bent sat down with us post-conference to dish on how his flashlights promote gender equality and safety around the world, and why pink is his favorite color.
Best described as someone who likes to "sit in the woods and stare," Molly fell for science in the ponds, wildlife, and fields of Ohio. After focusing on biology in college, she began to pursue science journalism, and has written and produced (radio/podcasts) for outlets like Scientific American, Wired, Nature, NPR's Science Friday, and National Geographic Adventure, as well as created live conversations at the World Science Festival, where she specialized in creating programs at the intersection of science, philosophy, and art. Her ability to comprehend and totally immerse herself in complicated issues has helped Radiolab investigate blood donation, drug prices, and one very special jar. She also had a hand in the pilot of Freakonomics Radio, where you can still hear her voice at the top of every episode.