Kerosene Lamp to CFL Bulb Changing Lives of Street Vendors – India

This initiative convinces street vendors in India to switch from kerosene lanterns to compact fluorescent light bulbs. “Kerosene Lamp to CFL Bulb Changing Lives of Street Vendors” saves energy while improving work conditions for street hawkers. What started with a handful of vendors is today an example for the entire country, as thousands are now using the efficient lighting.

Fast facts:

  • 10,000 street vendors using compact fluorescent bulbs by 2011

  • 82 per cent energy savings

  • More than 1,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent saved annually

The problem

Street hawkers form a major part of the city economy in India; they sell everything from fresh produce to electronic equipment on city streets, sidewalks, and other public spaces. Most informal hawker businesses are one-person operations that use unpaid family labor as needed. Some sell from the comfort of covered stalls; others simply squat on the ground beside a basket or blanket displaying their merchandise. Thus, informal hawking is a major source of livelihood for the urban poor.

One of the major expenses these hawkers spend is on energy for illumination during the night. Vendors use incandescent bulbs, tube lights or kerosene/petrol for illumination – which is neither environment friendly, nor attractive for potential clients. These relatively wasteful forms of lighting are economically inefficient, emit unhealthy smoke, and sometimes even cause fires.


The solution

This project taught street vendors about the benefits of converting to compact fluorescent light bulbs, initially convincing 20 vendors in Bhubaneswar to make the switch. By the end of the first year, 3,500 vendors were observed using the efficient bulbs; three years later, that number had reached 10,000 across the country. Even the poorest vendors who earlier used kerosene or petrol, now use the efficient bulbs along with rechargeable battery backups. Street hawkers got a new look, attracted customers, reduced energy costs, and had better working conditions.

Helping the planet

Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs saves energy, which reduces dependency on fossil fuels that are burned to generate electricity. Since such bulbs are more efficient, they have a longer lifespan, which also reduces use of fresh resources in production. Switching away from kerosene and petrol in lamps is also directly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Helping people

Street vendors are saving money by using light bulbs that last longer and require less energy. They are also exposed to less smoke from kerosene or petrol lanterns, which helps them stay healthy. This has also reduced fire risk. Better lighting could attract more customers, improving their earnings. The project has afforded a poor, urban population more dignity in their work.


Spillover effect

The project’s rapid growth, both in numbers and geographical spread, clearly reflects its scalability.



Images owned by the activity partners, all rights reserved.