Alice Min Soo Chun: She’s Lighting Up the World

March 9 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Let There Be Light

When you wake up, what’s the first thing you do? Check your phone? Turn on a light? Start the coffee maker? Pretty routinely, the beginning of our days involve one thing: electricity. Solar energy has been developed with continual research—and with some skepticism too. You’ve got to think people back in the day weren’t exactly accepting this newfangled thing called electricity with open arms either. I’m sure many scoffed at the idea of charged particles and currents, resolutely stating, “I’ll stick with my candles, thank you very much.” If you’re not so sure about this solar-energy stuff, do some research of your own. Listen and read with an open mind. And remember, if it weren’t for pioneering folks in the energy field, we’d all still be relying on candles to light the way.


These days, many of us certainly take our electricity-centered routines for granted. But consider the folks who struggle with a lack of this valuable resource every day, whether due to a natural disaster or simply because they live in energy-poverty areas. For instance, the International Energy Agency estimates 16 percent of the entire world population (That’s 1.2 billion people!) has little or no electricity. And as of the end of 2017, more than three months following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, nearly half of all Puerto Ricans were still without power.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Alice Min Soo Chun, Co-founder and CEO of Solight Design

One way to confront the lack of electricity plaguing so many people throughout the world is with the use of solar power. Alice Min Soo Chun co-founded Solight Design with that very idea in mind. And her business has grown into a global social enterprise that is literally shining a light on one of the world’s most widespread challenges.

Alice is nothing if not innovative. She taught architecture and materials technology at a variety of esteemed universities, including Columbia and Parsons School of Design, has lectured at Yale, Harvard and MIT, and is the former director of the Materials Resource Lab at The New School.

Knowing that solar energy is the most efficient source of renewable energy, Alice began researching innovations in this field. While still teaching, she earned a grant to develop her solar-energy research, and even turned her classroom into an innovation station to find real solutions to energy poverty.

Then the 2010 Haiti earthquake hit, resulting in more than a million Haitians being displaced and having to rely on dangerous kerosene lamps for light, thanks to the failure of the country’s already unreliable electric power system. It was in her classroom lab that Alice came up with a solution: the SolarPuff. Designed with style, sustainability and functionality in mind, the SolarPuff is a solar lantern that lights a room for as long as 12 hours on a single charge, is small, lightweight and self-inflated, and emits absolutely no carbon. It’s what Alice calls a “magic unfolding cube of light.” Perhaps more appropriately, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, called the SolarPuff “a cube of hope.”

While the SolarPuff is the ideal solution to help emergency-relief efforts and even refugees in flight, this innovation can be used in fun ways too, like lighting up outdoor events or while on a camping trip. In fact, even The Museum of Modern Art sells these cute luminaries in its store, and the SolarPuff is also available for purchase through other online retailers. Get one for yourself and donate one to the relief efforts still underway in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s a wonderful way to positively impact the lives of our neighbors and truly light up their world!


As Dutch Renaissance theologian Desiderius Erasmus said:

“Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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