Our co-founder, Andrea Sreshta, spoke with Impakter Magazine about LuminAID's commitment to innovation, iteration, and sustainability. Read her interview, originally published on Impakter.com, below:
What is the story of LuminAID?
ANDREA SRESHTA: My business partner Anna and I met in architecture school just after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. We were reading the news and seeing the stories of the devastation in Haiti and asked ourselves if we could design something to help survivors of such an event. We also came to learn that many people in places like Haiti that were lacking a stable electricity grid had to rely upon dangerous and toxic kerosene lanterns and hazardous candles for lighting. We challenged ourselves to design a product that could help address these issues. The product we designed was a portable solar light that could also pack flat and be distributed in the large numbers required after a disaster.
Can you share with our readers what are the most important features of your products?
AS: LuminAID portable solar lanterns and phone chargers are all lightweight, waterproof, and are easy to carry and charge on-the-go. Their compactness allows them to be packed and shipped in large volumes easily, which makes them an ideal item for humanitarian aid efforts after disasters, where supplies are needed in large numbers. They require no additional parts or batteries and can be charged using the sun or via USB. In addition to providing a source of bright, LED light, our 2-in-1 products also charge mobile phones and external devices. Our products can also be customized with patterns and logos.
Are you selling worldwide?
AS: LuminAID products have been distributed in more than 100 countries both for commercial use and humanitarian aid. We have active distribution online through Amazon in the U.S., Canada, Australia, UK, and other European countries. We also ship worldwide through our website.
What has been your most successful product so far?
AS: Our PackLite Max 2-in-1 Phone Charger and our PackLite Hero 2-in-1 Supercharger are both high performance solar LED lanterns and phone chargers. As of 2018, there are more mobile phones than people in the world. Mobile phones are especially useful after disasters or in crises since communication is an essential need to stay in touch with others and keep up-to-date on events post-disaster. Because both lighting and cell phone charging are useful in these instances, the PackLite Max Phone Charger and the PackLite Hero Supercharger have been popular products with our customers and charitable partners.
LuminAID seems to be truly caring about sustainability, can you share with our readers what actions your company is taking to promote a more sustainable life around the globe?
AS: Portable solar lighting technology has been around for a few decades. When Anna and I committed to starting LuminAID, it was out of a desire to make this basic technology more accessible to those in need after disasters through our designs. We also realized that our products could be useful in everyday life, including camping trips and hanging out in your backyard. Since lighting is a universal need in all of these situations, we felt that sustainable solar lighting was the ideal choice compared to non-renewable alternatives. Our commitment to sustainability can be seen through our designs that make portable solar technology more accessible and easy to use. We are also constantly iterating on our products and working to make them as powerful, long-lasting, and sustainable as possible. Our commitment to iteration can be seen in everything from new products to improving the smallest details of our existing products.
Regarding your products: are those built with materials that are recyclable and with sustainability in mind?
AS: Our lanterns are powered by the sun, so you don’t have to rely on any non-renewable energy sources to light your adventure. LuminAID PackLite Series lanterns collapse to just 20% of their inflated size which greatly decreases the carbon emissions associated with shipping to our warehouses, retail partners, and online shoppers. Our products are designed to last! With an IP67 waterproof rating and constructed from durable TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), most of the lanterns sold 5+ years ago are still going strong. Unlike PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a similar plastic material, TPU does not produce or contain lead, dioxin, phthalates, or any other poisons that are hard to pronounce. This means both our users and the fish near our factories are free from harm. Finally, our products can be responsibly recycled at any local electronics drop-off.
What are your thoughts regarding the incredible gap difference in the lifestyle between the most industrialized countries and the emerging countries? How could we reduce this gap?
AS: I think that anything that involves supporting access to education for children is important in closing any gaps across countries and in society. We’ve partnered with several charities in the past in countries including Laos, Tanzania, and Senegal, where our lights have been used by children to study at night in places lacking a stable electricity grid. It means a lot to us that LuminAID lights — however small — can make a difference in this way. In addition to education, having access to technology and connectivity can also aid productivity and support economies worldwide. Solar lights can allow artisans and small business owners around the world grow their business, and solar phone chargers can help people more effectively use their phones and stay connected in areas lacking electricity otherwise.
Are you working on any interesting new product that you would like to tell our readers?
AS: We’ve spent the last 7 years lighting up outdoor adventures and emergency situations. And now, we are excited to bring our smart, sustainable lights to your everyday lives through our new line of solar lights, the LuminAID Smart Solar Garden line. We’re passionate about empowering all people to live sustainably beyond the grid in any and all situations. They feature the same ultra-compact design that is the hallmark of all of of our portable lights, which makes them easy to store and transport. You can re-charge them using both solar and USB. And they’re waterproof, all-weather, and can float. We’ve created an app that puts you in complete control of turning your lights on all at once (no matter where they are positioned in your yard or campsite). You can use the app to control colors, schedule when the lights turn on, and check charge levels — all in the palm of your hand. Plus, the lights work without the app as well and come fully equipped with manual switches.
How do you see your company in the next five years?
AS: We’d like to continue to innovate and push the envelope when it comes to well-designed solar lanterns both for humanitarian aid and everyday use. We will continue to grow our mission to make safe, sustainable solar lighting more accessible to all.