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Danielle Trofe currently serves as Principal and Designer of Danielle Trofe Design, a Brooklyn-based design studio that "promotes a function-forward, sustainable and socially responsible approach to furniture and lighting design". Through a partnership that was established more than four years ago with Ecovative Design, a biomaterials company, Ms. Trofe created the MushLume Lighting Collection. All lighting fixtures within the collection are composed of Ecovative's Mushroom Material, a material that is comprised of mushroom mycelium and agricultural waste by-product; they are also naturally sustainable, compostable, and biodegradable.
As part of her studio's initiative to create a "bridge to understanding" and goal to make an impact on the local community, Ms. Trofe has partnered with local companies, nonprofits, schools, and members of her community to spread awareness about sustainability and biomaterials.
Danielle Trofe created the MushLume Lighting Collection to provide an alternative to the lighting industry's unsustainable alternatives. Ms. Trofe stated that her lighting collection is all about "using an innovative material science and bringing that into the lighting industry as a new material". All lighting fixtures within the collection are solely comprised of organic materials: mushroom mycelium and agricultural waste by-product. Ms. Trofe noted that the agricultural waste by-product within the lamp shades are comprised of corn stalks that are sourced locally from farms in upstate New York.
To create the fixtures, Ms. Trofe begins by placing the mushroom mycelium into a custom mold, allowing the material to bind to the agricultural waste by-product and grow. Per Ms. Trofe, mushroom mycelium is a "regenerative organism in nature that allows nutrients to be recycled throughout ecosystems". So as not to disturb the natural mycelium growth process that occurs in nature, the mushroom mycelium used in her fixtures are propagated in a lab.
Once placed in molds, the fixtures may take anywhere from four to five days (for small fixtures) or seven to ten days (for large fixtures) to fully mature. After the fixture has reached its full maturity, the product is heated to completely stop the growing process; the heating process allows the consumer to have a mushroom-based material that will not spore or sprout spontaneously.
The inspiration for the MushLume Lighting Collection spawned from a partnership Ms. Trofe created with Ecovative Design, a New-York based biomaterials company, more than four years ago. Before Ms. Trofe used Ecovative's Mushroom Material to craft her innovative lighting fixtures, she noted that Ecovative primarily used the material as a sustainable alternative to Styrofoam and plastics, two non-environmentally friendly packing solutions, in the packaging industry.
Ms. Trofe received samples of the material from the company and the rest is history. As her design studio is focused on providing a sustainable and socially responsible approach to design, Ms. Trofe wanted to work with a company that aligned with her studio's mission and vision for sustainability.
"We [didn't] just want to put things out there because we [could]. Materials really do matter".
"My pathway really led to fully understanding that, rather than making something recyclable, if you are able to upcycle a waste product and keep it in a close-looped system...[you will] eliminate so many stresses on our systems for waste and recycling goods."
Overall, Ms. Trofe's innovations have increased public awareness about sustainability and biomaterials; reduced manufacturing pollution on the environment; and, allowed for collaboration amongst sustainable local companies.
Though her innovation is still in its early years, it has had a wonderful effect on her studio. More than ever, the studio has become very intentional and mindful of its effect on the environment. The innovation has allowed for increased awareness of the studio and its vision for a sustainable future. In recent years, Ms. Trofe has partnered and collaborated with an array of businesses to achieve her business goals.
In the future, Ms. Trofe will be releasing a GIY (grow-it-yourself) kit which will contain all of the materials necessary to craft one's very own lamp shade or table stand in the comfort of their home.
By using very little water, electricity, and energy to create her products, Ms. Trofe noted that she is "tapping into the genius of nature". As she is recycling agricultural waste and using materials that are completely biodegradable and compostable, Ms. Trofe has significantly reduced her business' effects on the environment. If the consumer wishes, once they no longer wish to use the product as a light fixture, they can break the fixture into smaller pieces to be added to their backyard compost.
In order to make a positive impact and create a sense of public awareness about sustainability, Danielle Trofe has partnered and collaborated with local organizations, such as the Lowline, NYCxDESIGN, and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, nonprofits, educational systems, such as the New School and New York University, and the general public. To accomplish her goal, Ms. Trofe has hosted public workshops, panel discussions, and even hosted a month-long gallery exhibit of the growth production process of more than 100 of the lighting fixtures in Industry City in Brooklyn, New York.
Her collaboration with 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, a highly sustainable hotel group, consisted of crafting and installing nearly 130 lamp shades of various sizes into their space for all to see while overlooking views into Manhattan.
Ms. Trofe is currently studying for her second Masters in Biomimicry; she wants to learn more about biodesign and help others "to understand what materials go into the goods that are in [one's] home".
She recognizes that her design studio is one of a few in the world to commercialize a biomaterial. Because of this, she is very committed to making a successful pathway for companies to follow. In regards to the societal and environmental benefits of her innovations overall, Ms. Trofe stated: "It's not through individuals, or even individual studios. It has to be a larger picture for there to be the impact that really needs to happen".
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Danielle Trofe, Principal and Designer