Greenwashing Alert: Rose Brand Neo-Flex

I receive a lot of mail, electronic and other wise, that deals with the lighting industry. My personal artistic practice is heavily centered in the discipline of lighting design and it behooves me to keep up with what is happening in the industry.

Lighting design in theater is uses alot of resources. The amount of electricity needed to illuminate a show is staggering even on the lowest levels, as compared to your average home or office.  And, since technology is not in a place where you can really design a show in a traditional sense, it will be a very hard transition to make headway in this sector of the performing arts. I won’t go into it much here, but will refer you to my paper, The Ecological Sustainability of Theatrical Lighting, on the site here.

This morning I received an email for Rose Brand, a company that makes curtains, expendables and useful items for theater production, based in Los Angeles. It is promoting their NeoFlex product.  It is a Flexible Linear Light, which may as well be called rope light. It uses LEDs and can come in different colors as well as an RGB color change model.  It is diffused to look like a solid linear light and since it uses LEDs, it is extremely energy efficient, which is to say it is marketable as “green.”

So is it green?

For any application which it is suited, yes, it is a more “green” solution that others on the market. I won’t say it’s the greenest; I’m not going to do a side by side analysis of similar products. But if you need a linear lighting solution, sure, it is.  If you’re looking for an alternative to neon, it would be a good one. Neon, relative to an incandescent bulb, is pretty efficient, so the energy savings wouldn’t be huge. But, it is safer since it is not breakable glass and doesn’t require the high voltages that neon does. And it won’t be as hot as neon. There are some design advantages too: it is flexible, reusable, doesn’t need to be made to order and the color options are greater, especially the color changing RGB.

What other applications does it have? You could use it for cove lighting… where you have a wash against a wall or the ceiling to provide indirect decorative lighting. You could use it for any light rope application as well. You’d probably only want to replace rope light that was decorative though because of the look of the NeoFlex as it is much more expensive.  But,  the point is that it is primarily decorative, not a particularly practical light source at all. As a designer, I’m more interested on what its applications are and what I can do with it. As a color changing, cool to the touch, flexible linear light source I’m interested in it. I like that it uses much less power, and my clients will like that it would save them money if they’re looking for the effect that it produces versus an alternative.

So is it green?

No.

Why? It doesn’t solve a problem. It offers an interesting solution to a design problem, but not a constructive solution to a particularly unsustainable and existing solution to that design problem.  It is a little more energy efficient than fiber optic solutions, but doesn’t do anything that you can’t already do with fiber optics. Furthermore, it uses more material and isn’t as adaptable as fiber optic solutions as I have used it.

There is a lot of lighting products out there being green washed.  LEDs aren’t yet practical or cost effective in general use, but they are pretty, colorful and you can control their use pretty extensively, so they are used a lot in theatrical settings. For putting color on stage or anywhere for that matter where you would otherwise use a lot of incandescent or halogen sources, LEDS offer a great step in the right direction on energy used and heat generated.  But, it seems that you stick an LED in something and it becomes green. It isn’t as green washed as the source four, which is marketed as green because it has high efficacy and outputs with 575w for which other instruments require 1000w, but it’s tiring.

Just because something use an LED doesn’t make it green, especially if you have developed it for the other benefits of LED use. It’s lazy marketing and a paid forward pitch for the marketing of the application, be it show or club or what have you, to pitch that application as one which use green technology over alternatives.

Using more of something which is more efficient is still using more.

Also in the email, which you can see if you click here, are the Flora Series of fabric hanging flowers, Design Master Colortool® Spray Paint, 12 oz. Cans and Panorama Tour Edition. What the first and last have to do at all with being green I don’t get and to call an aerosol paint “eco” because the can is partially recycled steel and it’s non-toxic after it dries is a  stretch (read the warnings on those labels folks). Be careful.

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