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The Landscape of Lighting: Part 4/6

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

By Amanda Koellner
Images courtesy of Propeller

The Landscape of Lighting: Increased Sustainability and "Upcycling"

Considering that they consume 75–80% less power, LEDs are a leader in low-energy lighting—but recycling (or “upcycling” to improve quality and value) is on the rise too. For a briefing on the benefits of sustainable design, turn to Toby Barratt, partner at Vancouver-based multidisciplinary design studio Propeller, who says that throughout human history, using recyclable materials was the norm. “Our disposable culture, which peaked in the late 20th Century, is an anomaly that will necessarily come to an end,” he says. “Industry inventors and designers see the opportunity presented by the necessity to preserve resources, recycle materials, and invent new clean ‘cradle-to-cradle’ processes.”

Propeller pulls from a diverse pool of materials for its lighting designs, from rapidly renewable bamboo to repurposed vintage drinking glasses to reclaimed oak salvaged from disused shipping pallets. “Other materials that we use include ecoresin, which is a recyclable plastic, and reclaimed woods like Douglas fir,” Barratt says.“Lighting is a great medium for experimentation and innovation because lighting design evolves constantly, and sustainability is now an essential part of that evolution.”

Sarah Turner, an “eco-artist” and designer based in London, supports Barratt’s evolutionary mindset and has had a passion for making things from waste materials for as long as she can remember. In college, she collected plastic bottles from the coffee shop where she worked as she began to hone her upcycling craft. “For me, I see it as an extra design challenge to make something out of a waste object rather than a new material,” she says. “I think that upcycling is a growing trend in all areas of design, including lighting, as both designers and consumers are becoming much more aware of what their products are made of and are trying to make better choices.”

Coca-Cola took notice of the young designer’s work and commissioned her to do the lighting for their Hospitality Centre at the London 2012 Olympic Park. The resultant five chandeliers, done in classic Coke red and white, were each made from 190 plastic Coca- Cola bottles for a grand total of 950 two-liters. She falls into a camp of people that Barratt believes are driving this trend into the mainstream. “I’m excited by the ingenuity that I see coming out of the art and design schools,” he says. “Young designers are simply not satisfied with the old model.”

Read Part 5: Emerging Technologies & 3D Printing

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