Low energy is no longer enough, we have to look forward to a truly sustainable industry.
The lighting industry can justifiably be proud of its track record in energy reduction. The rapid move to LED, and the better use of control systems, will have resulted in a significant reduction in energy consumption. Less energy, less pounds, less carbon. All great news.
But is it enough? In reality, low energy is so last decade. Vital? Absolutely. But it is now largely a given. We are all doing it. It is no longer a useful differentiator.
An important next step must be to consider the lighting industry’s wider contribution to sustainability:
To what extent are we applying circular economy principles? Do we seek to re-use or re-manufacture equipment or components from luminaires that are replaced? Do we always offer a waste takeback service to our customers, to ensure that waste lamps and fittings resulting from product sales are properly recycled? Have we started to include plastics in our manufacturing that are from recycled sources, alongside virgin materials? (And by the way, if we don’t, what is the point of recycling?) Are we adopting modular design principles where feasible, so that if one component in a luminaire fails, there is no need to replace the whole unit? And are we reducing the amount of packaging we use, and ensuring that it is all recyclable?
Are we taking a holistic company wide approach to sustainability? Can we ensure all electricity used in our factories comes from renewable sources? Do we prioritise delivery contractors that use lower emission vehicles? Do we need to burn large amounts of fossil fuel by flying staff to Hong Kong and Frankfurt? Can we encourage travel on company business by public transport? Do our company pension funds still invest in climate damaging fossil fuel corporations, or are have these been replaced by green investments instead?
It is heartening to see examples of lighting companies that are now putting some of these principles into practice. As new material efficiency standards become mandatory, raw material and energy prices increase, and end users adapt their purchasing behaviours, it is likely that such first movers will have distinct advantages. Low energy products – and a sustainable business model.