Lights

Everything you need to know about PROJECT 2024 and circular economy lighting

Sophie Gollop, Co-founder and Managing Director of  Urban Cottage Industries and FACTORYLUX. At work next to our production line

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PROJECT 2024 is a roadmap, it takes us from where urbancottageindustries.com is today, to where it will be by the end of 2024, when every single product will have been phased out and replaced with a circular economy equivalent.

There are two ways it’s a unique opportunity for you, firstly you can follow the story as we become the first lighting manufacturer to transition to a properly sustainable future. Secondly, and less highfalutin, you can grab yourself a bargain: as each product is discontinued, it will move to the end-of-line section of the website.

 

WHY PROJECT 2024 ?

In the last 3-5 years, the ‘architectural lighting’ side of our business, Factorylux, has pioneered four important advances in circular economy design for lighting manufacture (one is already a published patent). It's led to us working with brilliant architects and building engineers all over the world, including ARUP and Foster & Partners, two of the worlds most iconic architecture and engineering brands. These design professionals are very much ahead of the curve on sustainability.  

“Factorylux support us on innovation. An unwavering focus on responsible resource use (and re-use), has made them a valuable partner in our shared work of designing and delivering the lighting of the future”

- J Sherman, Foster + Partners

Although the 'decorative lighting' side of our business, Urban Cottage Industries, is an older, smaller and altogether different place, we can't overlook the gap any longer. The product footprint is overall good, but it's not in the top one per cent, and that's where the sustainability discussion needs to be if we're going to get serious on climate change, waste and pollution.

It’s not going to be easy, because many Urban Cottage Industries products are more than a decade old now and still popular, but the simple fact is that they don’t comply to the latest circular economy standards we have ourselves created and they have to make way for next-generation lighting products that do. 

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” - George Bernard Shaw

WHAT WILL CIRCULAR ECONOMY LIGHTING LOOK LIKE?

The replacements will be similar, but not the same - they can’t be, because the materials and process we have to use to make them are different. Here are the design objectives of PROJECT 2024:

"All product (excluding electronics):

  1. Zero-plastic, zero-paint, zero-adhesive, zero-VOCs
  2. Upgradability, repairability, disassembly with standard hand tools
  3. End-of-life buy-back guarantee & ‘unmake’ back to component form in our own UK circular economy factory
  4. Alternatively, all components (excluding electronics) are single material (not composites) and can be reprocessed via regular ‘open loop’ recycling programs with minimum energy and pollution."

SOME HISTORY

When we co-founded Urban Cottage Industries Ltd in 2008, me and my partner Sophie designed and assembled simple light fittings on our kitchen table, with a side hustle of letterpress printing.

Some readers may not be aware that our main interest was neither lighting or printing, but 'sustainability', especially the problem of waste. We wanted to solve it by working out how to build a functioning circular economy in the real world. In the years since then, we re-invested everything into developing a new kind of circular economy factory in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire (where I’m from) from where we could turn our circular economy ideas into a workable reality.

The Factorylux circular economy lighting factory in Hedden Bridge, Yorkshire

If you’ve ever purchased a wall light or a ceiling light, lighting components, a letterpress card or notebook from urbancottageindustries.com, you helped to build this circular economy factory.

It was an ambitious target that required a decade of experimentation, we had to invent or adapt most of the required technology because this level of circular economy (what we call a ‘closed loop’) has never been achieved before in the lighting industry.

We self-financed the journey by designing, manufacturing and selling all kinds of different lighting along the way, mostly through urbancottageindustries.com but we also took on many other challenges, such as ‘Hugo’, an Oscar winning film we worked on for Martin Scorcese (that was a seriously good experience).

Urban Cottage Industries lighting for the Oscar winning film, 'Hugo' directed by Martin Scorsese

At the time, 'Hugo' was the most complex project we'd ever delivered - we designed & built hundreds of lights for this film.

Most recently, we launched Factorylux, a ‘start-up within a startup’ which could realise our circular economy innovations through 'architectural lighting' because, in our experience at least,  architects have taken the lead on sustainability in general and circular economy in particular, compared to other design disciplines, such as interior or retail designers for example.

Factorylux NINETY-NINE® spotlights lighting art in a gallery with TRACK-PIPE® lighting track

Factorylux discovered how to make standard lighting products (like these simple gallery spotlights on adjustable track) that are easy to disassemble & don't contain any plastics, composites or VOC-generating chemicals, such as paint.

In 2022, Factorylux landed the biggest gig of our lives, a mega-project for Foster & Partners. As well as the revenue to finish our circular economy factory, it validated our years of research and development and proved circular economy thinking is finally becoming accepted and that we’re here for it!

 

HOW WILL PROJECT 2024 AFFECT URBAN COTTAGE INDUSTRIES  

In many ways, urbancottageindustries.com was the biggest and most important chapter of this circular economy story because without it, we couldn’t have funded the journey - investors wouldn't have taken our circular economy dreams seriously and to be fair, there were many times when they felt quite unachievable to us!

That research and development work is  complete now (we've even nearly finished writing the book) and between now and the end of 2024 we’ll be applying our circular economy thinking to everything at Urban Cottage Industries. 

Myself and Sophie have taken full control of Urban Cottage Industries again, it's going to be quite a trip and we promise to do our best to document it here and elsewhere.

 

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