Green light

There’s more eco-friendly lighting than energy-saving light bulbs – sustainable materials and end-of-life recycling are also importan. But can saving the planet be combined with inspired lighting design?

AS WITH many areas of design, the main talking point among this year’s lighting exhibitors is all things eco, with designers heralding sustainability, and its promise of lower energy consumption and less waste, at every turn.

But what does the eco buzz mean when it comes to lighting? A special feature at 100% Design attempts to provide the answers. Curated by not-for-profit organisation Redesign, Lighten Up is a showcase of sustainable lighting, occupying 100m2 and accompanied by a 160-page publication. Redesign creative director Jason Allcorn says that his company aims to ‘sex up’ the image of sustainability and prove that sustainable designs can look ‘appealing and desirable’.

Lighten Up shows 60 projects from conception to creation, to encourage designers to illustrate the myriad approaches in eco design. It presents products in nine categories, from ‘re-use’ (designs making creative use of ready-made, second-hand components) to ‘recycle’ (made with reprocessed waste materials).

Design company Ateliero’s EcoPETLite is a striking example of reprocessing waste material. It uses plastic bottles infused with colour dyes and other recyclable components to create stained-glass effect chandeliers. The material also plays a key part in the Eco desk lamp from Luminair, which is made from sustainable hardwood and recycled aluminium. The light source is a LED cluster, the most efficient light source available.

Product design company Hulger tackles the energy-saving, but much-maligned, compact fluorescent lamp, which has never been fabled for its decorative properties. Hulger will show three new designs of its Plumen, a sculptural reinvention of the CFL, which has proved so successful that the New York Museum of Modern Art acquired it for its permanent collection this year. The first range will be rolled out worldwide next spring.

Dealing with the issue of waste, Tim Edgeler’s Dlight turns a CFL bulb’s packaging into its lampshade and allows the user to freepost it back to the manufacturer at the end of its life to dispose of its potentially harmful mercury content; and Wemake’s Beryl & Friends range preserves unwanted, out-of-date lamps in industrial shrink wrap to challenge fashion cycles and why products get thrown away.

It is not just Lighten Up that explores what’s possible in sustainability. Dutch company Freedom of Creation has been giving everything eco an emphatic nod for years, building a global manufacturing network and specialising in low-waste rapid manufacturing. It will launch the Riot, its first sustainable light collection. In collaboration with low-energy bulb specialist Megaman, Riot is made of entirely recycled materials and is designed around Megaman’s new CFL G9. ‘We want to make a statement with the piece,’ says founder and designer Janne Kyttänen, stressing that it was not a political statement, but rather to get people thinking about ways to preserve the Earth.

Fledgling studio Atelier Areti sees the use of energy-saving light sources and the longevity of a product as a given. It is launching the Kirchschlag, a range of five pendant lights made of hand-blown and engraved crystal glass, using as few parts as possible, all of which can be disassembled and replaced if necessary. Kristofer Karlsson, the architectural lighting designer in Areti’s team of four, says, ‘We would never compromise on looks and quality to make it eco-friendly, but we see [sustainability] as one of the basic considerations in design.’

Many echo Karlsson’s insistence on combining the functional and sustainable with the decorative and beautiful, and judging by the Kirchschlag, the Riot and the like, it might be time to put the perennial question of whether sustainable designs can be aesthetically pleasing to rest. The next question is whether they can be made affordable. The Megaman deal, for example, allowed Freedom of Creation to keep the cost to consumers down on its Riot range. Come 18 September, it will be up to the visitors pouring through 100% Design’s aisles to assess how well designers have realised their goals – and what premium consumers might be prepared to pay for them. 

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