I recently had a conversation with the long-time president of a lighting fixture company (to remain anonymous, I will refer to him as ‘Bob’). After transitioning to manufacturing energy-efficient LED lighting solutions, Bob, like many, is seeking ways to implement more ‘sustainable’ practices into his company. Operating large commercial buildings is perhaps the largest consumer of energy use globally (including lighting but mostly HVAC), but that is only part of the story…

Today, Bob’s company primarily uses metals and traditional plastics. He is particularly concerned with their lights, as many commercial interior products, ending up in the landfill after 10 years of service and often fewer. With recycling largely a myth, plastic waste choking our oceans, and chemicals leaching into our water, it’s understandable why products and materials end-of-life is a big concern.

Lamp made of Ekoa®

Burying this problem literally puts it out of sight and mind. Still, the bigger issue is the invisible problem of greenhouse gas emissions. The materials we use to build our world account for at least 20% of emissions, and that is only building and construction with that number growing higher if one includes vehicles and goods.

So what does Bob do now?

He can determine the embodied carbon of the light fixture via a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which will drive a rethink of the design process, starting with initial design and specifications. In tandem, he can transition to manufacturing products made of rapidly renewable plants like Ekoa which can meaningfully reduce CO2 emissions. Eventually, these rapidly renewable products contribute to reversing climate change. In the next post, we’ll take a closer look at how to get consumers to embrace this emerging class of materials—hint: it involves addressing their tacit needs better.