The waste is the win - making your carbon footprint tip-toe

Sustainability and environmental awareness are (thankfully) on everyone’s agenda these days. And for real change to happen, we all need to make new choices. Meet some of the people at Fagerhult, that has challenged themselves into thinking outside the box, resulting in - a little box.

Fagerhult has been a manufacturing company for over 75 years. Throughout this time, we have always been careful with details and quality. But, what was right and real in 1945 is no longer an undisputable fact. In 2020 we started a rigorous sustainability work, with goals linked to the UN's global goals for sustainable development, to provide direction for our journey.
Among other things, we want our luminaires to consist of 80% renewable or recyclable materials before 2030. Multilume Re:Think, made of Solid Board, an entirely new material for the industry, is one step on that journey. Here you meet some of the people behind it.

But, where to start when you are a producing factory facing a challenge as big as this? Elin Stjernholm, R&D Manager at Fagerhult, explains.

"Well, first up we´ve started to introduce our suppliers to our ambitions in 2030 - how can we reach this quite ambitious goal together? We got a more in-depth knowledge about our suppliers; where their material comes from, which energy they use in their production and so on. But we did not stop there- the suppliers supplier was also of huge interest for us".

Parallel to the external sustainability check with the suppliers, Elin describes that there was also an internal process at Fagerhult.

"To get the big picture we made a life cycle analysis* for some of our products, Elin Stjernholm says. It was to clarify how big impact the material had, since we already knew that it mattered. We´ve always optimized the material in our products and made conscious choices, and moving towards more sustainable materials feels both natural and necessary. On top of this, we´ve also started projects with different universities in Sweden, focusing on sustainable materials".

"One of the first times we showed it, one of the reactions was “is that a pizza box or what is it?”"

Martin Bååth, design engineer

So, in order to put the knowledge into practice, the design engineers at Fagerhult got together for their reoccurring innovation forum to come up with new ideas. Martin Bååth, design engineer at Fagerhult, describes:

"The team and I started to brain storm and asked ourselves – would it be possible to change the material in a recessed flatpanel, our Multilume Slim? It is one of our high runners, and already a very good luminaire, so it would be quite a challenge. We reached out to one of our suppliers, and started to discuss how it could be done. Together we did some prototypes in different materials, until we found a material that would be suitable for this luminaire".

Even though it was the sort of innovation that the team was looking for, it was not an immediate hit for everyone.

"I remember one of the first times we showed it, and the reaction was 'is that a pizza box or what is it?', Martin says with a laugh. But most of all, my co-workers had an open mindset regarding this paper experiment, and it was exciting to continue the development process".

Since this material was totally new to all the members in the project, it raised new questions for the team to handle. Would it be safe? Would the luminaire break during installation? Is it possible to develop a luminaire in paper, without compromising with the light quality?

"Given that this material is organic, it behaves completely different compared to the dead materials that we are used to, such as steel and plastic, Martin Bååth explains. We needed to investigate thoroughly how the material would react to temperature shifts and moisture. Would it shift form or shape because of it? That material tolerance was something we needed to include in the design".

"Never have we tested so much, as on this one, says Martin Bååth with a smile. This material has cleared all tests that we need to perform, according to branch standards. It has really been a journey, and we have learned so much by bringing in a new material. Our supplier has been so helpful in learning us understand the whole chain. We have aquired a great in-depth knowledge on what we can do with this material, and it’s not only for packaging industrial. You can do so much more. For an example a very good flat panel".

"There is a lot of interesting investigations going on, and sustainability is certainly in the air."

Elin Stjernholm, R&D manager, Fagerhult

But how will the future look, will we all have paper luminaires at home in 20 years?

"Well, we are just getting started, says Elin Stjernholm. It might be a luminaire with a lot of renewable- and recycled material. Or maybe, if we let ourselves think out of the box, which in important in this stage, there will be a technical plastic with no oil offered on the market. Maybe we can reduce so much material that the focus is just on the light source and its distribution, or perhaps can we take it all the way? Reused luminaries with light as a service? There is a lot of interesting investigations going on, and sustainability is certainly in the air".

* A life cycle assessment is an overall calculation of a luminaire's environmental impact during different stages of its life - such as manufacturing, distribution, usage, recycling etc.

If you wish to learn even more on Multilume Re:Think, you find the campaign site here.

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The waste is the win - making your carbon footprint tip-toe