Light on the land: An Italian design team turns food waste into lamps
High Society, an emerging design studio that explores innovative and beautiful ways to use biomaterial from local food waste, sits in the high reaches of SouthTyrol—an evergreen-blanketed province nestled between the Alps and Dolomites in Northern Italy. Giulia Farencena Casaro and Johannes Kiniger, who co-founded the studio in 2015, grew up surrounded by the rivers and forests of this region. “We used to spend a lot of time in contact with nature,” Farencena Casaro says. “This made us realize the importance of having objects that connect us with the outdoors at home.” Their studio has been applying those lessons to one of Italy’s biggest cultural commodities: its culinary output. “Italy is renowned for its food,” Farencena Casaro says, “but less for its valuable secondary resources, such as the byproducts of food production. Each year tons of waste are produced that can be turned into something useful.” The duo’s lighting designs, made from the upcycled leftovers of sustainably run food factories in SouthTyrol and other parts of Italy, are both functional and made with the higher aim of “changing our awareness regarding natural materials.” Farencena Casaro and Kiniger have launched two collections so far: Highlight, a sleek pendant lampshade made from
either wine pomace, hemp stalks or tobacco leaves, fabricated through a process of mechanical compression; and Senilia, a biomorphic lamp made through zero-heat extrusion of a coffee bean’s silver skin or the hops and barley from beer distillation. Of their many partnerships, the farthest afield is the historic coffee manufactory Hausbrandt in nearby Trieste, and the closest is the pasture next door to their lab in Sesto, where they cultivate hemp. As is often the case with sustainabledesign projects, carbon footprints can sneak in through the back door while scaling up production and distribution. But High Society is determined to maintain a bona fide circular economy. Its approach is to align the pace of design development with the natural progression of wildlife. “Time is a key player,” Farencena Casaro says. “It is important to look for sustainability during the whole
process, which means taking care of the production and post-production impacts, in terms of endurance and recyclability.” High Society has remained almost carbon neutral by using hydropower. In addition, a return policy for used products is meant to ensure that their products will be composted properly or reformulated into new designs. The business model is a conscious scaling down rather than up—a focus on how design can be used to improve the welfare of their collaborators, as well as the climate and community. Social responsibility, Farencena Casaro says, is essential to the company’s mission, from the collection of waste from food suppliers at zero cost to the donation of a portion of the sale of each lamp to a local addiction-prevention institute. “Doing something for the environment cannot be sustainable if we do not take the well-being of humans into account.” —Anna Shinbane
Ida Applebroog (b. 1929)
From top: Light fixture from the Senilia series. Pendant lamps from the Highlight series. Photos: Courtesy High Society.
Mercy Hospital, 1969
© Ida Applebroog. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth
Ida Applebroog: Mercy Hospital 29 February to 7 June 2020 Works by the celebrated American painter and feminist pioneer whose work explores themes of violence and power, gender politics and women’s sexuality.
Organised by Barry Rosen In association with
Freud Museum London 20 Maresfield Gardens, London NW3 5SX
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