It’s Easy Being Green with Sustainable Designers and Lights

A photograph of Earth taken by the Apollo 17 crew, entitled "The Blue Marble."

The Blue Marble, a photograph of Earth taken by the Apollo 17 crew, which helped inspire the first Earth Day

Since it was first proposed by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a day of education and unity for ecological and conservationist movements in 1970, Earth Day has grown and developed into an international phenomenon, and the largest secular observance in the world. It’s a day to educate oneself and the world at large about ecological issues and initiatives to revitalize and preserve a planet that even the best of us takes for granted from time to time. In this spirit, and in honour of Earth Day, we’ve brought together some of our absolute favourite initiatives in the worlds of ecological lighting and sustainable design.

Stickbulb Reuses New York’s Past for a Sustainable Future 

The pile of long, linear wooden cut-offs had been growing in RUX Studios’ workshop for a while. Struck both by the elegant simplicity of the shape and the waste that these cut-offs represented, RUX designers challenged themselves to design a new ethically-sourced and entirely sustainable lighting solution and, in 2012, RUX Founder and Creative Director Russell Greenberg and Partner Christopher Beardsley founded Stickbulb.

The New York City skyline, with a classic water tower foregrounded. Around the water tower stand Stickbulb luminaires.

Stickbulb’s mission is to celebrate beauty, sustainability, and New York City

Today, Stickbulb offers a wide range of designer lights from simple linear floor lights, wall sconces, table lamps, and pendants to more complex forms such as Triple X Chandelier and the Bang family of lights. The sleek, slender, architecturally-inspired forms are created through meticulous engineering, uniting integrated LEDs with the natural richness of wood.  

Stickbulb's Big Bang floor lamp and Middle Bang floor lamp alongside a child's wooden chair in a studio space.
Double Boom pendant light from Stickbulb.
The Torch family of floor and table lights from Stickbulb in a variety of sustainably-sourced and reclaimed materials.
An 18" Ray wall light installed horizontally and 5' Ray wall light installed vertically.

Clockwise from left: Big Bang and Middle Bang floor lights, Double Boom suspension light, 18″ (horizontal) and 5′ (vertical) installations of Ray wall sconce, and a variety of Torch table lights, all from Stickbulb

While several of the wood varieties used for Stickbulb’s designs are sourced from sustainably-managed forests, by far their most intriguing options are Heart Pine and Water Tower Redwood. Reclaimed from select remnants of demolished buildings and rooftop water towers respectively, Heart Pine and Water Tower Redwood make every luminaire using these materials an expression of New York City’s character and history. 

The various sustainable and reclaimed wood options available from Stickbulb

These woods bear signs of their former lives proudly, with occasional nail holes and discolouration marks making certain Heart Pine pieces sought-after, while Water Tower Redwood is distinguished by the weathering effect of constant exposure to water on one side and sun, wind, rain, and snow on the other. Through its reclamation and reuse of these materials, Stickbulb honours New York’s past while preserving its future.

Triple X Chandelier from Stickbulb, illuminated.

Triple X Chandelier from Stickbulb

New Ideas, Recycled Material: Scraplight from Graypants

A cluster of Scraplight Moon pendants in white from Graypants

Graypants’ flagship line of designer lights are as notable for their beauty as they are for their ecological consciousness and unique material. The entire Scraplight family is formed from precision-laser-cut recycled corrugated cardboard, treated with non-toxic fire-retardant and handcrafted into an array of vibrant and dynamic shapes over opal glass diffusers. 

Scraplight Ausi 8 pendant from Graypants in Natural finish
Scraplight Dome 36 pendant from Graypants in white finish
Scraplight Disc 16 pendant from Graypants in natural finish
Scraplight Drum 36 pendant from Graypants in white finish
A cluster of Scraplight Arcutus and Scraplight Sun pendants from Graypants in a studio.

Top row: Scraplight pendants in both available finishes. From left to right: Ausi 8 natural, Dome 36 white, Disc 16 natural, and Drum 36 white. Bottom: A cluster of Scraplight Arcturus and Scraplight Sun pendants.

These cardboard shades play with translucence, creating textural patterns across the surfaces of every shape in the line. The Arcturus, Sun, and Moon series are delightfully celestial, creating the impression of a thriving ecosystem viewed from space with their complex interplay of light and show, while the Ausi series use patterned regularity to evoke traditional Chinese paper lanterns with their recycled materials. The Disc, Drum, and Drop series all find a balance between these two extremes, while Hive cultivates the organic lines and details of the insect dwellings that inspired it. 

Scraplight Nest 24 pendant in white from Graypants
Scraplight Hive 9 pendant in natural from Graypants
Scraplight Drop 18 pendant in white from Graypants

Scraplight pendants from left to right: Nest 24 in white, Hive 9 in natural, and Drop 18 in white.

Cultivating Inner and Outer Peace: Biophilic Design

Interior dining area of an Earls Restaurant featuring biophilic design elements and lights supplied by LightForm.
Interior dining area of an Earls Restaurant featuring biophilic design elements and lights supplied by LightForm.
Interior dining area of an Earls Restaurant featuring biophilic design elements and lights supplied by LightForm.

This Earls Restaurant project in Vancouver, BC used lights from LightForm to help create a biophilic interior. This decor has the added benefit of providing cover for predators, allowing them to carry off that kid who’s been screaming for forty-five solid minutes without mom or dad batting an eyelash.

Biophilic Design is a growing design movement based on the integration of the natural world into both architecture and industrial design works. Using a term invented by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, biologist Edward O. Wilson developed the biophilia hypothesis in his 1984 book, Biophilia

Edward O. Wilson, PhD, in his study

Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D., author of Biophilia and many, many other books on nature and the natural world

The biophilia hypothesis suggests that humans have evolved to have an innate fascination with and need to interact with life and organic forms. Further, we are not only drawn to living things and vital environments, but also experience a significant boost to our wellbeing when we encounter them (note: this does not include being hunted by a wolf pack or similar non-relaxing encounters). If you’ve ever used a recording of rain to fall asleep or used a lunchtime walk in a downtown park to calm your nerves on a stressful day, you have experienced biophilia. 

38Vt table lamp from Bocci on a desktop, with its cavities empty.
38Vt wall sconce from Bocci with a plant emerging from one of its cavities.
38Vt desk lamp from Bocci with a spider plant emerging from its cavity.

38Vt table lamp and wall sconce from Bocci

In Lighting, Biophilic Design has centred around finding ways to integrate plant life into luminaires’ forms such that the plants thrive while the light still offers all the beauty and functionality the application requires. The 38Vt table lamp and wall sconce from innovative Canadian lighting brand Bocci, for instance, features a transparent blown glass diffuser containing smaller white blown glass compartments within. The resulting cavities add visual complexity on their own, but were intended to hold succulents or other plants, expanding the constructed organic shape of 38Vt with real living organisms. 

Ringo Star Acoustic light with the optional green moss acoustic absorbing panel from Lightnet.

Ringo Star Acoustic suspension light with Green Moss centre

Lightnet has taken Biophilic Design a step further with the functional acoustic typologies within their Ringo Star family of suspension lights. Designed for use in office and public spaces, Ringo Star acoustic lights are large circular LED fixtures with a variety of sound-absorbing centres. Among the available options are biophilic moss centres, which offer an organic coolness and calm to their environments, while also acting as natural sound absorbers, reducing stress levels in shared office environments. (For inquiries about ordering Ringo Star Acoustic with the green moss centre, please contact us at customerservice@lightform.ca, as North American availability is uncertain). 

A woman reads beneath the light of Asana-3768 from Estiluz, which also provides a surface for a plant to rest upon.
Circ T-3816S from Estiluz with vibrant artificial greenery on the lower ring.

From Estiluz, left: Asana P-3768 floor light; right: Circ T-3816S with easy-care artificial greenery.

Estiluz likewise designed Asana P-3768 floor light to enhance calm and to cultivate a soothing environment. This lamp table is an expression of essentialism, with one of its three support rods leading to a linear LED head and the other two designed to hold available table heads for the perfect soothing reading experience, with your favourite plant companion and a cup of tea held by the very luminaire that illuminates your book.

Carmine Deganello's Uma portable table lamp from Pablo.
Carmine Deganello's Uma portable table lamp from Pablo sits on a beach blanket next to a couple enjoying a sunset.
Uma table lamp from Pablo emits a soft glow through a decorative carrying bag.

Uma from Pablo

Integration of organic life into lighting is only one way that Biophilic Design is influencing the lighting world. Emulation of natural light and its effects, such as the warm campfire glow of Uma portable table lamp from Pablo, has long been a source of fascination for lighting designers, as has the emulation of natural forms, such as WonderGlass’ Momento lights, which evoke a bead of water forming with their shape and echo the ripples of that bead striking the pond’s surface with their shadowplay. 

Side view of Momento M50E from WonderGlass. Designed by Nao Tamura
Nao Tamura's Momento M35 from WonderGlass, off, viewed from above.
A cluster of Nao Tamura's Momento Lights from WonderGlass, viewed from above with the watery ripple shadow effect on the ground below.

WonderGlass’ breathtaking Momento series, designed by Nao Tamura.

Studio Formafantasma Reduces for Sustainable Design

Italian-born but Amsterdam-based, Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin have devoted themselves and their studio, Formafantasma, to both education and ecological design. They treat each of their installations and designs as a research project, exploring a concept or idea from every angle before allowing it to begin to take physical shape. 

Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin pose for a photo in a living room.

Formafantasma founders Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin in 2020

Formafantasma has created exhibitions and products based on research projects that lasted years; Cambio, installed at London’s Serpentine Galleries in 2020, dealt with inefficiencies in the global lumber industry, while previous shows were the result of similar studies into mining, smartphone manufacturing, and even industrial design itself. 

Moreover, they strive to create and inspire sustainable design initiatives with regard to the processes of design. It has become commonplace for brands to engage in one-off creations with designers, which raises both economic and ecological costs for that one-off. By focusing on building ongoing designer-brand relationships, as with their WireRing wall sconce leading to their upcoming WireLine suspension light with Flos, they can create a more efficient workflow as they expand their offerings, reducing waste in the production process. 

Formafantasma's WireRing from Flos, installed and illuminating the hallway of a condo
WireLine, designed by Formafantasma and released by Flos, installed in a workshop

Formafantasma’s designs for Flos: WireRing wall sconce (left) and WireLine suspension light (left)

Trimarchi and Farresin have gone so far in their commitment to sustainable design as to risk sabotaging themselves with Formafantasma’s website. As the resources needed to maintain server farms continues to increase exponentially, there is a very real environmental cost to things like Blockchain, NFTs, and even websites. To reduce their own carbon footprint, Trimarchi and Farresin stripped Formafantasma’s website down to the bare essentials: white and blue words on a black background, organized cleanly and simply in a way that–for good and ill–evokes the basic webpages of the mid-nineties. It is this commitment to sustainability–combined with their remarkable aesthetic and design abilities, of course–that has made Formafantasma such an exceptional studio and a tremendous figure in environmentally-friendly design.

A screengrab of formafantasma's website homepage

Simple and straighforward, Studio Formafantasma worked with Studio Blanco to create the sustainable design for their website.

Good Design is Sustainable Design

The core of good lighting design always, on some level, has to involve sustainability. Trends are a product of disposable consumerism. Good designs are influenced by trends–no doubt–but they are always, at their core, timeless. Great designer lights are crafted from fine materials intended to last a long time, and designed to endure proudly as fashion changes around them. This is why lights such as Bernard-Albin Gras’ La Lampe Gras–one of the first examples of true design in lighting–has endured for almost a century.

Bernard-Albin Gras' timeless Lampe Gras, now from DCWéditions, on a ledge in a kitchen of rustic tile.

Now available from DCWéditions, La Lampe Gras N°205 table lamp remains an icon almost a century after its birth

Moreover, the fashionable yet shortsighted preservation of traditional methods as a symbol of “authenticism” that has seized other fields–such as the use of toxic chemicals in producing and processing expensive cinematic film for Hollywood movies such as TENET and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, despite digital cameras equalling and even surpassing traditional film (I have a film degree and I know whereof I speak) in almost every way–has not been felt as keenly in lighting design. Even where the classic Edisonian bulb design is wanted, inefficient incandescent technology is usually replaced with something more sustainable. 

Tala's "Candle" 4W LED bulb.
Tala's Elva 6W LED bulb.
Tala's Globe 6W LED bulb.
Tala's Lurra 3W LED bulb.
Tala's Gaia 6W LED bulb.

Tala’s retro-nostalgic bulb designs use LED technology to offer a classic presence ecologically

Indeed, ecological LED lighting technology presented lighting designers with such freedom in crafting previously-impossible shapes that most of the industry devoted itself wholeheartedly to developing solutions for the technology’s initial shortcomings, with the result that power-saving luminaires with all the colour temperature and dimming capabilities of traditional lights are the standard, rather than the exception, today.

Happy Earth Day from LightForm

We hope that you have enjoyed reading, and that you are as excited as we are about all the environmentally-friendly and sustainable design initiatives that are emerging in the world of designer lights! We encourage you to indulge yourself and your spaces with the lighting designs available at LightFormSHOP.com. Or contact one of our showrooms in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto and let us help you build your environmentally-conscious designer lighting plan.

The History of Earth Day

What became “Earth Day” was originally much a smaller–though still ambitious–project intended to get college students across the United States informed and excited about environmental concerns and protection. Senator Nelson envisioned a group of “teach-in” events, intended to seize the energy of the anti-war “flower power” peace movement and expand this social consciousness into ecology. A young activist hired to organize the teach-ins named Denis Hayes saw larger potential in the idea and facilitated the development of this larger focus. As this growing idea captured national media attention, it took the name “Earth Day” from a local San Francisco celebration conceived by peace activist and environmentalist John McConnell and held March 1, 1970 (McConnell’s Earth Day continues to be honoured by ringing the United Nations Peace Bell on March 21, the vernal equinox, every year).

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson at around the time he proposed the first Earth Day.
Organizer Denis Hayes sits in Earth Day headquarters on the phone.

Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson (left) and Denis Hayes (right)

By the time April 22, 1970 arrived, twenty million Americans–ten percent of the total population of the United States of America at the time–were inspired to join in and demonstrate against ecological harm. Earth Day helped groups who had previously been fighting environmental battles individually to find each other, coordinate, and unite against common opponents.

The first Earth day led to the creation of the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency, the National Environmental Education Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Clean Air Act before the end of that year. At the same time, similar initiatives began to grow around the world and Earth Day soon became an international symbol not only for those concerned with saving our planet from destruction, but for everyone with an interest in maintaining their own health and safety. 

To learn more about Earth Day as an organization and the various initiatives they develop and encourage year-round, you can visit them at their International and Canadian websites.

Header image: Ululì suspension light from Karman