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Greenlighting design

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Articles - June 2013
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
0613 Tactics 02
// Photo by Leah Nash

A more recent Eleek project was to re-create lighting fixtures for Seattle’s 1906 King Street train station, based solely on historic photos. The monumental fixtures differ from the originals only in their durability and in LED replacing gaslight.

A walk through Eleek’s two-story warehouse shows off the Eleek way of doing business. Numerous specific recycling bins are in easy reach of employees, hand towels hang in the break room with no paper towels in sight, and a compost tub awaits the neighbors’ gardens. Less obvious are the facts that no toxic substances are used in manufacturing, and local scrap metal and other recycled materials are first choices, as well as products that come from sustainable businesses and from within a 50-mile radius, in order to help reduce their carbon footprint.

On the social-sustainability side, Eleek hires from the neighborhood, pays full benefits, offers flexible scheduling and pays bonuses to employees who walk, bike or bus to work. And even during trying economic times, they have never laid off an employee, cut benefits or failed to pay a bill.

“It’s about honesty, integrity and doing the right thing,” says Clark. “If you’re not operating from the highest place, then you’re not really being sustainable.” Clark declined to share revenues, but named 2008 as the company’s most successful year yet. A large lighting commission for a shopping mall in Missouri doubled Eleek’s revenue. Numerous awards and national recognition, such as being named one of the 25 most promising social entrepreneurs by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2010, have resulted in commissions across the country.

Meanwhile, VOIS, which bills itself as the “Chamber of Change,” continues to enlarge its network of sustainable businesses — although Clark has encountered a few obstacles. After a controversial board shake-up last fall, she has accepted a less active role as a member of the advisory council. Clark has her hands full with Eleek’s new projects, including another train station restoration, this time lighting fixtures for the 1926 Sacramento (Calif.) Station. There are also the occasional tours to lead, mostly for designers and architects. “What we do in-house is pretty amazing,” says Clark. “People love seeing how things are made.”


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