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Metro Lighting serves up light by the glass

- by Lydia Lee, home@sfchronicle.com

Published June 5, 2015

If you’ve ever hesitated to throw out a beautifully designed bottle after finishing the contents, the new line from Berkeley’s Metro Lighting is for you.

The Bottle Glass lights are made from recycled bottles of 20 different brands of wine and spirits.

You can see the imprint of their former life in the bottle marks; some bear them more subtly, and some more obviously — as in the light that reads Bulleit Bourbon: Frontier Whiskey.

Outfitted with LED Edison bulbs, which look like old-fashioned filament bulbs but are powered by LEDs, they are a marvelous combination of old and new technology.

“Seeing a glowing filament within a glass shade reminds me of an early lantern, of capturing fire in a jar — but in a modern context,” says Metro Lighting co-founder Lawrence Grown, who opened the period-inspired lighting company with his wife, Christa Rybczynski, in 1993.

The two trained as architects at the University of Cincinnati and moved to the Bay Area to start their careers, but the recession of the early 1990s steered them in a new direction.

Grown took a part-time job working at Berkeley’s Ohmega Salvage, where he rebuilt a lot of antique lights and “caught the lighting bug.”

Today, Metro Lighting has six employees, a 3,000-square-foot showroom and an adjacent 7,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

For the Bottle Glass line, Grown sought out bottles of high-quality glass that were the right size and shape.

“Everything shrinks when you hang it from the ceiling, so the larger 1.7-liter bottles work best,” he says.

The bottles come from a Berkeley recycling center and from bars and restaurants. They are cut with a glass-cutting band saw, then the edges are ground with a belt sander and polished with a lapidary wheel.

“It takes less energy to create a light shade from a bottle than to recycle it into a new bottle,” Grown says. “We’re making use of the bottle’s embodied energy.”

Local whiz-kid animator–Nick Diamant recently made a series of short videos for Metro Lighting. Enjoy the first in the series here!

Metro Lighting was honored to receive a California Climate Leader award on February 12, 2015!

Sometimes independent micro-businesses lead their industries toward new goals. Ever ahead of the curve, Metro Lighting has won numerous awards for their sustainability efforts, this time a statewide recognition from CoolCalifornia.org a project of the California Air Resources Board. Metro Lighting was one of sixteen small businesses honored in a ceremony on February 12 at the California EPA in Sacramento.

Metro Lighting owners– Lawrence Grown and Christa Rybczynski– with their daughter Eliza accepted their award in Sacramento.

Lighting showrooms inevitably use a large amount of energy, but at Metro Lighting, 100% of their electrical usage is offset by 120 rooftop solar panels. And their singular commitment to sustainability shines through their beautiful lighting: at Metro you'll find gorgeous pendants made with bottles harvested from Berkeley bars and restaurants, unique chandeliers that incorporate bicycle parts, and stunning glass shades recast from crushed bottles and jars.