July is supposed to be restful and relaxing, as we as enter the heart of summer. Instead, this year, it has been unsettling. First, we had multiple 95-plus-degree days here in the nation’s capital. High temperature days like that, the type that make us slaves to air conditioning, are becoming all too regular—the norm instead of the exception—as the planet warms. Then, on July 12, there was news that an iceberg the size of Delaware had broken off from what is known as the Larsen C Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. This was coincidentally timed with my reading of “The Uninhabitable Earth” in New York magazine’s July 10–23 issue, a brutally harsh reminder that the environment’s undoing is already well underway.

So how does one stay optimistic about our planet’s future when environmental legislation is under threat and the United States has relinquished its role as a leader on the topic of climate change? However naive it might sound, one small thing we can do is continue the discussion and to promote awareness about the issue. It’s a small thing, and seemingly obvious, but it’s necessary.

And with that in mind: What’s happened to the lighting and sustainability conversation? Just a few years ago, this was a major thread in the discourse that designers were having on a regular basis. Now, with the lighting community having fully embraced LEDs—as spurred on by the incandescent phase-out outlined in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007—it seems as though the energy savings gained from the switch in technology has fooled people into thinking there’s no more work to be done. Not the case! There is still plenty to do and we need to start doing it fast.

The American Institute of Architects has just released its 2016 summary of its 2030 Commitment, the national initiative that the organization launched in 2009 to provide a guide to help firms achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. While the design and building communities have made significant strides, the new report’s takeaway is that the target goals are not being achieved fast enough.

In the lighting community, the International Association of Lighting Designer’s Energy & Sustainability Committee here in the U.S. and its more recently formed European Union Regulatory Affairs Working Group have done a tremendous amount of work to do date, as have the various energy committees of the Illuminating Engineering Society. The problem is that this is the work of a few and their progress is disseminated only sporadically to the lighting community at large.

We, as a community, must find a way to reignite the conversation and map out a plan that the entire industry can embrace. A sustainable future starts with acknowledging that this is still a major issue that needs to be addressed. The lighting community is about to enter its annual cycle of conferences, as well as launching the calls for seminar proposals for next year’s conferences and trade shows. Let us renew the sustainability conversation in lighting terms we can all take ownership of and do our part as responsible stewards of our built and natural environments.

Elizabeth DonoffEditor-in-Chief
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