Circular Economy or Greenwash – who’s telling us the truth?

There is really only one conversation that’s worth having (apart from all the others, of course) and that is the one where we ask how we get out of this climate and natural resource crisis intact, with a way of living that’s still recognisable.

The lighting industry has finally got hold of Circular Economy design principles and it’s a great joy to me to be able to hear arguments in favour of sustainable production that no one was interested in hearing a decade ago . . . when there was ‘no traction for it‘, as it was regularly explained to me. Or as an old friend once said: “No one cares, John. It’s just you.”

But now it looks like we have that traction and we also have what looks like a healthy platform developing from which new ways of producing and using lighting equipment can prosper. Except it’s not quite so simple.

I’m find that I’m writing far more about Greenwash than I ever thought that I would – you’ll find those articles here on The Light Review – and the reason is because we’re seeing claims of Circular Economy where there is no such thing. It’s just business as usual – but with a different marketing tweak.

I’ll just say this to any specifier who is looking for sound Circular Economy examples – ask the manufacturer “What Happens Next?” A luminaire (or any other product) that can be taken apart and re-assembled is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that the culture exists whereby that product will be taken apart and re-assembled. That is where the planning and positive thinking falls apart. A product becomes ‘a circular economy fixture’ at the point when it departs it’s original install and shifts into a second/third lifetime. If that doesn’t happen, then it’s not a circular economy fixture. Its just another fixture that you can take apart before you throw it away. A pointless exercise, because the manufacturers didn’t think the entire journey through.

In a parallel universe, a new film was released yesterday that talks about Circular Economy in the fashion industry. It sounds like it’s a different place, but the commonalities are striking.

Fashionscapes: a Circular Economy is directed by Andrew Morgan and presented by Livia Firth founder of Eco-Age.

The film exposes the false Circular Economy claims made by the fast fashion providers (and we have plenty of those in the lighting industry), but she also interviews people in the supply chain who are doing the job as it really needs to be done. Watch the film by clicking on the arrow below. Its just 17 minutes of your time – well spent.


John Bullock is the editor of The Light Review

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