by Sarah J.F. Braley | August 31, 2016

Sarah J.F. BraleyPlanners thinking about making the lighting at their events more sustainable can let that worry go. With the advent of LED (light-emitting diode) technology, a natural evolution has occurred, making green lighting the norm, not the exception.

Dwayne ThomasLED uses less electricity, the equipment is lighter and events need less of it, allowing production companies to use smaller and fewer trucks, which cuts the amount of gas needed to get the equipment to the event site, and so on. "All of those things play into it," says Dwayne Thomas, right, owner and creative director of Greenlight Creative LLC in Portland, Ore., who started his sustainability-minded company in 2009 and now does events for such well-knowns as Adidas, Keen, Doc Martin and Nike.

Thomas was on his own when he began. "It was just me in 2009," he says. "I would procure rental equipment from partners and colleagues, rent a truck, and go and do events as we were hired. Now there’s six of us, and we've grown a lot."

Greenlight Creative eventHe gets excited talking about how the industry has changed. “If I hang one traditional tungsten light at about 1,000 watts and you're only getting white light from that, once it's in the air, the only way I can make your stage look different is to use another light that I've hung right next to it," he explains. "If I give you LED fixtures with red, green and blue, I'm getting all the colors from one light and I'm hanging a 100-watt light. It's going to use only 10-20 percent of the energy, even if you never change the color."

Thomas also points out that traditional lights need dimmer packs to turn them down; digital lights have all the dimmer capability built in.

"It just gets better when we get into moving lights," he adds. "A rock show in 1996 would have had traditional moving lights; the light ran constantly and to turn it off, you put a panel over it. With an LED, it's only on when you turn it on. The more you peel back these layers, the more savings you get just in energy consumption alone."

Greenlight Creative eventThomas used to explain all this to meeting planners, to show why they should hire him. Now he just goes in and does it. "The intelligence crested about five years ago. I now have planners say, OK, I need this many LEDs," he says. "It's become a household term. I would not for a minute say that we are unique in this. Some of our colleagues are doing it consciously and others just because this is what the equipment is."

For the things you can't do with LED, Thomas says events still need to use filament lights (he owns eight). "I believe in another two or three years, LED will catch up," he says. "And I don't think LED does a focused ellipsoidal spot well, that you put a gobo in to make a pattern; that needs a traditional theatrical light. You can get that as an LED engine, but it's nowhere near as bright and the focus field is not as flat. We are very patient. We are not just early adopters; if you just wait, they will get it right and they will get it better."

Greenlight Creative eventHe also thinks LED also doesn't do a good long-term follow-spot; currently the technology is "very very dim and expensive."

Thomas is truly passionate about this area of the industry. “I'm passionate about lighting design, and I want to do things responsibly," he says. “We can do to a room for $3,000 for what a designer could do for $10,000, because we paint with such large brushes. If that's bragging, so be it."