Forget the bright white glare of LED bulbs of the past—today, sustainable options offer a warm glow that’s every bit as appealing as their incandescent predecessors. Even better, says London-based designer Yair Neuman, eco-friendly lighting solutions have now moved beyond bulbs and into the realm of high design.

And, ahead of Earth day on April 22, we’re celebrating this eco-conscious approach to creating beautiful products. “Recently there’s been an explosion of creativity from artists who are committed to eco-friendly practices,” Neuman explains. “Now lighting designers are using recycled materials, addressing their energy consumption, and finding eco-friendly ways to reduce packaging and waste.”

Take a look at how he and five other designers are lighting the way on sustainability.

Through a Lens

Two hanging eco-friendly lighting fixtures in an optician's rooms
To create his lighting designs, Neuman uses polycarbonate spectacle lenses, shaping and molding them together using minimal heat, jigs, and a lot of manual pressure—“much like pressing olives.”

Neuman’s pieces—planet-like pendant orbs, or flowers that beam light upwards—are made from the polycarbonate “dummy” lenses used in spectacle frames. “The lenses were going into landfill,” he says, explaining that as an eyewear designer he “was confronted by it daily. That’s why I felt compelled to find a solution.” As a result, he’s made the production process for his lighting options as eco-friendly as possible. He collects the lenses from various opticians he can reach on foot, public transport, or on a bike and then fuses them into sheets that he can manipulate.

While he recently produced his first Lens Light collection, he prefers to work on commission. “It’s the most sustainable way to work,” he says. “It’s a collaboration between me and the owner—a shared vision that’s often created for a particular space. So, it’s a very pared down process.”

Solar Power

Solight lanterns line a seaside pier at sunset
Style and substance: According to Solight, using one solar-powered light instead of a lightbulb saves 90 pounds (41 kg) of carbon emissions a year.

Founded in 2006 by Alice Min Soo Chun, then a professor in architecture and material technology at Columbia University in New York, Solights are an award-winning take on solar-powered lanterns. Made from recyclable, biodegradable fabric, the brand’s origami-inspired design allows the lanterns to be flattened for packing or storage and ensures they are able to “reinflate” without the use of a mouth nozzle.

With a range of designs on offer, Solights are a practical addition to your camping gear—and an equally striking addition to any chic outdoor soirée. But the brand’s true mission is to bring light to the 1.6 billion people around the world who live without access to electricity. The company offers the option to donate lanterns through its Give a Light Scheme, and also gives 10 percent of its profits to help those in need.

Sculptural Scraps
A large number of spherical Scraplights hang over a bar
Graypants’ Scraplights lampshades utilize material leftover from the studio’s production of cardboard furniture, as well as reclaimed waste from the local area, and are available in natural and white options.

Based in Seattle and Amsterdam, design studio Graypants believes “bold creativity leads to diverse designs and beautiful objects.” That’s certainly the case with its Scraplights series of statement lightshades. Each sculptural piece is handmade from multiple rings or bands of recycled cardboard, which are precision cut with lasers, glued together with non-toxic adhesive, and treated with a non-toxic fire retardant.

All the shades in the collection—which includes moons, pebbles, drums and cones—give a gorgeous ambient light that radiates through the ridges of the cardboard. Graypants is also a big believer in the sustainable benefits of collaborations, and create custom designs for clients around the world.

Lightly Twisted

A twisting metal chandelier by Varaluz
Rhythmic and organic in movement, Varaluz’s Flow chandelier is made from hand-forged recycled steel and features a two-tone finish that lends it warmth and a touch of sheen.

Exuberant, elegant, sophisticated, and sexy lighting is what Las Vegas-based Varaluz does best. And by handcrafting its light fixtures out of eco-friendly materials, the brand brings cool design with a conscience to discerning customers.

Each of its beautiful pieces is handmade from responsibly sourced materials, such as hand-forged recycled steel and glass. It offers three collections, each of which would feel as well-placed in a gallery setting as your home. The Flow series features dancer-like twists and swirls; Cubic presents panel after panel of dazzling faceted crystal; and Urchin resembles its marine namesake in color and shape.

Lamp it Up
A Candela latern charging an iPhone on a desk
“Candela is really something new,” says Alessandro Sarfatti, founder of lighting brand Astep. “It’s an oil lamp but with 21st-century technology—and the magic is that the heat of the flame is transformed into electricity.”

Launched in 2016, Argentinian designer Francisco Gomez Paz’s cordless Candela lamp is based on traditional Scandinavian lanterns, although its approach to lighting is completely futuristic. By using bioethanol, the lantern’s long-lasting ceramic fiber wicks burn with a smokeless flame and generate thermoelectricity that is stored in an internal battery.

This process generates enough electricity not only to power the lamp’s internal LEDs, but also to charge mobile devices via its USB port. And, to round off its eco-friendly lighting credentials, the Candela, which was created for Danish-Italian lighting brand Astep, is also manufactured using recyclable glass.

Organic Glow

Two coral lightshades hang over a kitchen counter in a modern home
Named as one of the top 20 lighting icons by Home Decor Singapore, David Trubridge’s Coral designer pendant was inspired by the geometric polyhedral found in natural formations of sea coral.

“My designs speak of the ocean and the mountains that I love so much,” says New-Zealander David Trubridge. “Human beings are an integral part of nature, but we sometimes forget that. I want my work to help people think about that connection.”

His beautiful kitset lights, including the bestselling Coral, are made from fast-growing bamboo in a workshop that uses renewable energy and are flat packed in recycled boxes. The company is also a committed supporter of the Maraetōtara Tree Trust, which replaces plant species that are alien to New Zealand with native trees, with the aim of establishing a lush corridor along the 27-mile (43 km) length of the Maraetōtara River.

Banner image: A range of design studio Graypants’ Scraplights lampshades in “natural.”

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