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12 of the Best Ethical Lighting Sites

16th February 2021
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Now I promised you this after a recent post on the 10 best affordable lights which I capped at £150 but it proved surprisingly hard to find statement lights for less than that and, as was pointed out, the ethical and eco-friendly provenance wasn’t perhaps all that it might be. And this is the perennial problem when it comes to shopping sustainably – it seems you can have “affordable” (whatever that means to you) or kind to the environment but it’s hard to have both at the same time.

ph5 light by poul hennigsen is a design classic from heals

ph5 light by poul hennigsen is a design classic from heals

Of course, there is also the argument that by buying the right thing you will love it for ever and have no need to replace it so while it might be expensive it’s a lifetime purchase and one that you may even pass down the family. Many years ago I interviewed the Danish designer Marianne Brandi who told me that when she first started living with her now husband, he said he had a couple of Arne Jacobsen swan chairs to bring to the new abode. Such is the abundance of design classics in Denmark that Marianne refused to let them in the house saying she sat on them in the dentist’s waiting room and didn’t want them in her house.

vintage lights from skinflint who offer a full circle buy back scheme

vintage lights from skinflint who offer a full circle buy back scheme

Anything by Jacobsen is expensive (although at the time it was designed to be affordable hence the proliferation of Fritz Hansen chairs in Danish primary schools and Poul Hennigsen Artichoke lamps in public buildings) but if you are going to treat it as a one off investment piece then it’s up to you to decide what you can afford against how long you will keep it.

etsy lampshade made from sugarcane

lampshade made from sugarcane costs £90 by ayus design via etsy

So for this post I have thrown the prices out of the window. I have, instead, rounded up ten places where you can find either a manufacturer with a range of products or a one off. Please do add your own recommendations to the comments – the more we can spread the word and pool our collective knowledge the better. And I write in the full knowledge that I may have missed out someone obvious so you can add them below. I am also not an expert in matters eco but am simply a gather and disseminator of information so mistakes are mine and I’m happy to add clarifying information where necessary.

loer pendant by tom raffield sustainable ethical lighting

loer pendant by tom raffield – sustainable and ethical lighting

Right then, let’s start with Tom Raffield whose house some of you may have seen on Grand Designs and who creates sustainable wooden lighting (as well as furniture and accessories) in Cornwall using FSC wood and combining traditional steam bending techniques with modern technology to make his wonderful lights. I bought one in a seconds sale for the library nearly ten years ago and still love it today.

Next up and it’s Tala, who make energy efficient lightbulbs founded on the premise that “good design can help mitigate climate change”. Their bulbs are made to last for 30,000 years (remember that when you think about the price) and are beautiful enough to hang naked from ceilings or on table lamps. There are also some complete lamps available in the range as well. I also have a couple of these bulbs.

alumina table lamp by sustainable lighting company tala

alumina table lamp by sustainable lighting company tala

Plumen is another British brand that set out to create a designer eco light bulb and has now expanded to include shades, table lamps and pendants. Founded in 2010 by Nicolas Roupe and Michael-George Hemus (the name is from plume as in bird feathers and lumen for the light) when they realised the light bulb hadn’t really evolved for 150 years. The original twisty 001 was the world’s first designer light bulb.

One important point to note is that when your bulb comes to the end of its life you can return it to them for recycling and they are also happy to receive bulbs they didn’t make. Find the recycling details here.

designer sustainable lighting from plumen

designer sustainable lighting from plumen

Now Nkuku is a brand based around fair trade, transparency and sustainability across all their products. I can’t speak for individual lights but they use jute, rattan recycled glass, sustainable mango wood, leather as a by-product dyed with vegetable dyes.

Another site that sells a range of ethical homewares is Wearth and it is perhaps a sign of how tricky the ethical lighting market is that they have only one of their site. But the Ni Ni shade is pretty, plastic-free, vegan-friendly, made in the UK from sustainable and recycled materials. And it’s £105.

jute lampshades from fair trade brand nkuku

jute lampshades from fair trade brand nkuku

As I mentioned above vintage lighting can be a good way to source ethical products. You are saving something from landfill and giving it new life. Skinflint sources lights from across Europe made between 1920 and 1970 before restoring them all for modern homes. They are also a member of the Lighting Industry Association and offer a full circle buy back scheme so you can trade yours in for something different should your decor or desires change.

If you have time (and time is often a good replacement for money when it comes to shopping online) then a browse around Etsy can often unearth some gems with the added advantage that makers are often happy to chat to you about their products. A quick jog round this morning found this shade made from biodegradable sugar cane and another from birch wood covered in beeswax.

ni ni plastic free light from wearth

ni ni plastic free light from wearth

As an eighth place I would add  Heals as a British store with the largest collection of design classics. These are the investment pieces and the ones that you will love for ever.

Now for some more individual places and I turned to Chloe Bullock, of Materialise Interiors, the UK’s first BIID (British Institute of Interior Design) registered vegan designer for her suggestions and I am, as always, indebted to her for her knowledge. You must check out the orange peel and pine needle shades below.

ty syml makes lights from wood waste and seaweed

ty syml makes lights from wood waste and seaweed

She told me about Pembrokeshire-based Ty Syml, who are making lampshades from wood waste injected with mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus) to glue it together and even seaweed.

And if you love terrazzo (I mentioned this yesterday as the look I am researching for my shower room) then you will love these pendant lights from Nid Store made from orange peel and pine needles. Each shade takes 20 squeezed oranges – the result of someone drinking 2L juice and they cost £144.

nid store sells lamps made from orange peel and pine needles

nid store sells lamps made from orange peel and pine needles

The Recycled Glassware Company makes lamp bases from, you guessed it, recycled glass while Lumo Lights, in Bristol, integrates re-used copper, salvaged wood and fabric dyed with natural indigo to create a range of lights.

After that it’s about individual pieces – make sure the wood is FSC, or check where it’s made to reduce transport costs depending where you live. You might require plastic-free or vegan friendly and, as mentioned above vintage is always good.

I hope this has helped. Please do add ideas in the comments below.

 

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  • Jennie 20th February 2021 at 8:31 am

    I have two beautiful lamps from Stuart Lamble Design based in Cornwall and using sustainable FSC certified wood which is bent and twisted. Beautiful design pieces and sustainable. You can see them on his website and order via illustrated Living in Truo @illustratedliving
    Love this idea finding eco products for the home in one place.

  • Kay Prestney 19th February 2021 at 8:06 am

    This is great, thanks for sharing Kate.
    Seb Cox also makes beautiful lampshades out of mushroom mycelium.
    I also love NOVE lighting for their sustainable cork pieces.
    X

  • Sharon 18th February 2021 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for this update and your research, very interesting..
    I’ve been looking for lampshades recently – we want two of the same style for a room that has a short narrow corridor as you enter it then widens out, so we need a small one for the corridor bit and a larger one for the main part of the room. It’s proved tricky, especially once you rule out those that are made far away. Thought I’d cracked it when I found what I thought was the right thing on JLs website – checked the details and the large one is made in Spain (ok I thought, not tooo bad. Bafflingly, the small one is made in, yes you guessed it – China! Aaargh!!
    Back to square one..

  • Mary Barber Fray 16th February 2021 at 4:58 pm

    How about Pinch? Not cheap but stunning in simplicity and excellent environmental credentials

  • Anna 16th February 2021 at 4:05 pm

    Well researched on our behalf Kate. A valuable post to keep for reference, thank you.

  • Jane Dale 16th February 2021 at 8:38 am

    Yesssssssssssssss!

  • Emma 16th February 2021 at 8:17 am

    Thanks Kate, I’m off go investigate the seaweed shades!

  • Emily Mathieson 16th February 2021 at 8:07 am

    It’s brilliant to know about all these companies – the more ethical the better! Thanks Kate.

  • Naomi Cox 16th February 2021 at 8:02 am

    This is a great piece and great to see brands doing their bit! My sister just bought me a light from Moodlight Studio France- they call themselves a waste management company (love that) and make lights out of tea leaves/coffee grounds. They’re just stunning!

  • Zoe Cooper 16th February 2021 at 7:43 am

    Thank you, really helpful finds.

  • Melanie Lissack 16th February 2021 at 7:21 am

    Love this post. Fascinating!

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