100 Lights for Every 100 Patrons

The following story originally appeared online as part of the blog series for the Green Coconut Run, and is being re-purposed here, being only slightly modified.

“In four countries, every mechanic loved that solar light. It survived a year of salt spray on our dashboard. That was our field test,” says Kristian Beadle, captain of Aldebaran. After seeing its value for remote communities, the crew announced a partnership this month with Unite to Light, a non-profit from Santa Barbara, CA, to take the lights to fishing villages without electricity.

100 lights collage with date only

Click on the photo above to support the Patreon campaign with at least $1 by Jan 31st.

The Green Coconut Run, as this community-led voyage is called, has dozens of participants sailing to the tropics and “Cruising with a Cause”. The idea started when Captain Beadle and a group of young professionals from Santa Barbara fell in love with exploring the Channel Islands on a 42ft sailboat, Aldebaran, and were inspired to go further south.

The crew formed a cooperative to raise funds for the repairs and improvements necessary for the boat. The “sport” of cruising — i.e. exploring a coastline by sailboat, often internationally — is considered the realm of the rich or retired. This young group’s approach is bold and creative. Members fly down to meet the boat along the journey for legs ranging from 4 days to several months, and fund the voyage based on time aboard.

Deck view of Aldebaran with solar panels mounted and SCUBA gear ready for exploration

Deck view of Aldebaran with solar panels mounted and SCUBA gear ready for exploration.

Within one year, the Aldebaran made it to Costa Rica, with 30 crew members having graced her decks. Along 6000 miles, the crew went to remote surf breaks, caught fish for food, and explored SCUBA spots with their on-board compressor. “We were living the dream,” said Michael Chiacos, an electric vehicle consultant who was aboard for 6 months. “I now feel re-energized to start the next phase of my career.”

Displaying the ship's water maker and filters, using the solar light. It was a favorite with the crew and mechanics in several countries, proving its value in off-the-grid applications.Beginning next year, the Green Coconut Run crew will also make stops to bring solar lights to school kids in fishing villages. Unite to Light, the non profit that distributes these special lights, has sent more than 80,000 self-contained units throughout Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

The organization’s Executive Director, Dawn O’Bar, commented: “We’re excited to partner with Green Coconut Run to bring our lights to sailboat-only locations, such as island atolls. This voyage also shows how perfect these lights are for outdoor enthusiasts — remembering that the more lights we sell, the more lights we can donate to those in need.” The solar lights, which include a model with USB charging station for cell phones and cameras, were designed by the Institute for Energy Efficiency at UCSB, the host of three Nobel Laureates awarded for breakthrough work in LED lighting technology.

Schoolkids in Nicaragua proudly display their solar lights.

Schoolkids in Nicaragua proudly display their solar lights.

The enterprising sailors on Green Coconut Run are crowd-funding the cost of the lights with a new campaign, called “100 Lights for every 100 Patrons”. They are using a platform that allows people to support their video series and be patrons of the arts. The voyage will get 100 lights for every 100 patrons that join (starting at $1). This special campaign runs until January 31, 2016, but you can support them anytime at www.Patreon.com/GreenCoconutRun.

The Green Coconut Run is named after the famous sailing route “Coconut Run”, which goes from Marquesas to New Zealand. It embodies today’s new breed of adventurers: considering a triple- bottom line even while having fun. “We hope to make a positive impact while we live our dreams of sailing the world,” said Sabrina Littée, a registered nurse and First Mate of Aldebaran. What if the crew gets too many lights to distribute? Cruisers heading to the South Pacific may participate by taking lights to remote atolls, expanding the mission’s reach.

As part of their ‘triple-bottom line’, the Green Coconut Run is also contributing to environmental science: along the route, they are collecting microplastic samples for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC), a Montana-based non-profit which connects adventurers with opportunities to collect scientific data.

Water sampling in the middle of the ocean, at the magic log, as the crew called it. Sailors and other outdoor enthusiasts can contribute to scientific knowledge through ASC's network.

Sabrina sampling for micro-plastics with bottle in hand.

Alex Hamilton, ASC’s partnership coordinator, explains the program: “Microplastics are plastic particles under 5mm in size that degrade from consumer plastics, weather from synthetic materials like fleece, and are in body products with ‘microbeads’. Too small to be filtered out of wastewater, toxins can absorb onto these particles and, when ingested, make their way up the food chain. Adventurers like the sailors on the Green Coconut Run are helping ASC build the world’s largest dataset on microplastics, giving our partners the ammo they need to stop this pollution at its source.”

Dinner in Isla Natividad. The locals asked us to pay for the beer only — the lobster was free.

Dinner in Isla Natividad. The locals asked us to pay for the beer only — the lobster was free.

The captain of Aldebaran, Kristian Beadle, is a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar and has a Masters focus in Sustainable Tourism. He believes that sailors can be a force for good: “Cruising sailors go to hard-to-reach coastal villages and ecosystems. If we ‘cruise with a cause’, we can help communities and contribute to scientific knowledge in a very unique way.”

Wondering if you can get a light for your personal use? They are sold under a “Buy 1, Donate 1” model. For every solar light sold, one light is donated to a village in need. The small Luke Lights sell for $20 each, with a slim profile and water resistant design. The larger UTL-C lights cost $60 each, featuring USB charging capability, making it a solar-powered battery pack for cell phones and cameras. It’s an important feature for communities with limited electricity — or if you are going camping for a few days and want to keep your devices charged. Order lights through GreenCoconutRun.com or donate a light directly at www.Unite-to-Light.org.

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