Now that energy-efficient LED has achieved mainstream status, lighting has grown to include recycled and environmentally friendly materials in luminaires. You won’t believe how good they look.
To learn the latest on sustainable lighting, enLIGHTenment Magazine spoke to a lighting showroom and a manufacturer who are helping to lead the industry with greener products: Freddie Naimer, President of Montreal Lighting & Hardware in Montreal, Canada, and David Royce, Co-Founder of the Minnesota-based Bicycle Glass Company, whose factory utilizes only handmade, 100-percent recycled local glass, wind-powered electricity, and shipping materials that are entirely recycled or recyclable.
EnLIGHTenment Magazine: Which brands of sustainable lighting products impress your showroom?
Naimer: Graypants, David Trubridge, Slamp, Cerno, Varaluz, Pablo Design, and certain products from Montreal manufacturer Eureka.
EM: When did you begin offering sustainable lighting?
Naimer: We have carried sustainable products since our showroom opening in 2014. We go to trade shows with a very open eye for new sustainable products.
Royce: We began making sustainable lighting when we started our business in 2016, but we didn’t really ramp up production until first quarter 2017.
EM: Are you seeing increasing demand for the category?
Royce: Absolutely, I think that customers first see a high-quality product at a price they can afford and that is competitive in the market; once they realize the story behind the pendant, I think it helps customers feel really good about the decision they are making. We don’t believe that high-quality and sustainable products necessarily need to be expensive.
Naimer: Not really a demand, but when the products are explained, customers tend to favor them.
EM: What actions do you take to draw attention to the sustainable attributes of these products?
Royce: We highlight it everywhere we can ― from social media and our website to interactions with all of our customers. Whether we are chatting with customers, posting a message on our website, or showing product listings, there are just three simple things we express: the lights are beautiful and thoughtfully designed, the lights are handmade in Minnesota, and that they are made from 100-percent, post-consumer recycled glass.
Naimer: Mostly employee training. We don’t clutter our showroom with signage; it takes away from the beauty of our products. When one of our representatives explains the features and benefits, it increases their credibility to our clients.
EM: Sustainable lighting most commonly uses recycled or up-cycled materials, such as glass. Are you seeing other approaches, such as natural plant materials, low VOC materials, etc.?
Royce: For us, the first step was using recycled materials. We also offset 100-percent of our electrical energy consumption through a program called Windsource, which sources all of the energy from wind farms in southern Minnesota. As we move forward, we would like to do even more to reduce our carbon footprint including directly sourcing our energy through solar as well as reducing our natural gas usage through alternative fuel sources.
Naimer: One common thread between these manufacturers is the use of “responsibly sourced” materials that are either from recycled and/or recyclable materials both natural and synthetic. In addition, the packaging is designed so that there is minimal waste. For example, a David Trubridge 36”-diameter dome fixture comes in a recyclable box not much larger than that of a laptop!
EM: What’s the wildest recycled material in your offering that stops customers in their tracks?
Naimer: This would probably be the “Scraplights” fixtures made from recycled cardboard. Another – that while not recycled, but recyclable – involves the Italian lighting company Slamp’s products made with an exclusive patented and recyclable blend of technopolymers and glass crystal called Opalflex®.
Royce: At the moment, we only have our 100-percent recycled glass, however 100-
percent recycled glass is very unique in our sector. Most glass companies recycle as much as 25 percent of their glass, but supplement it with raw “batch” or constituents that have been mined all over the country like silica, soda ash, and lime. Recycling 100 percent is difficult to do and also provides huge benefits to the environment, which we are really committed to as a company. Additionally, we internally recycle as much as 95 or more percent. Any of the cast offs – or the parts that don’t make it into the final product initially – get recycled into our furnaces over and over again, so at the end there is literally nearly no waste material being generated by the company.
EM: Has the amount of sustainable lighting you offer been increasing over the past couple years?
Naimer: Yes, as more manufacturers are beginning to follow this trend. It is more evident today in the high-end products we offer, but mainstream lines are beginning to adopt sustainable practices, too. We see this now on the energy-efficiency side, with most manufacturers offering a vast array of LED styles. Eventually, I believe that most will also incorporate recycled and recyclable materials.
Royce: Our lighting is already 100-percent sustainable and will stay that way since it is our core business model.
EM: What are your predictions for how sustainable lighting will evolve over the next few years?
Naimer: As both public demand and government legislation regarding environmentally friendly products increases, we will see most lighting manufacturers introducing more sustainable products. New technologies in energy efficiency will also be incorporated into future designs.
Royce: I can’t say I would know where the entire industry might move to, but customers want to put high-quality and beautiful products into their homes. If recycled materials can consistently achieve being beautiful, desirable, and competitive against raw/non-sustainable materials, then I think you will see adoption of sustainable products more and more.
EM: What advice do you have for lighting showrooms about selling sustainable lighting?
Royce: The most important thing is that the items sold are beautiful and desirable for the customer,
otherwise it will never take off. After that, customers are smart and inquisitive and want to know the story better. Have your salespeople learn the story and some of the specifics about how the recycling is done and what difference it can make. Customers are good people and want to see themselves as good stewards of their environment. Give the customer a pathway whereby their purchase of sustainable lighting can help them self-actualize this. Both you and the customer will feel good selling and purchasing something that is making a difference.