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Lava Glass – stunning and sustainable art

Two Taupō glass artists are taking extraordinary steps to protect the environment that inspires their work.

Lynden Over and Christine Robb are so determined to care for the local landscape, they have created the world’s first certified carbon net zero glassblowing studio. Their Lava Glass business, which encompasses a gallery, café, sculpture garden and workshop, is lined with artwork that echoes neighbouring wonders.

Visitors flock to buy vases and bowls, light shades and paperweights that replicate the cinnamon swirl of nearby mud pools, the deep greens of native forests and turquoise taken from thundering Huka Falls or Lake Taupō itself.

“We are passionate environmentalists,” Christine says. “And we look to the environment for our art." 

Give it up

“Most of our work is referencing the beauty of Aotearoa, particularly the rugged landscapes around the Central Plateau. It’s a large part of why we moved here, in 2002, and it’s a large part of why our glass is so unique.”

In 2019, the couple came close to giving up everything they had built.  Lynden decided their existing tree planting and recycling efforts would never counteract the energy-hungry aspect of glass production, particularly emissions from the gas-powered furnace used for blowing glass.

“Lynden told me he was prepared to stop doing his art if he couldn’t do it in a sustainable way. That was quite confronting because I think the artwork is really important and really beautiful and people love it. It is also our living and we employ a lot of people.”

Christine Robb

So they began meticulously auditing every aspect of their business, from the wrapping used to send artworks overseas to the refrigeration needs of the on-site café. They looked at the sprays used in their nationally significant sculpture garden and the air miles required to bring some raw materials into New Zealand. Then they set about making some major changes. 

Drastic reduction

In 2021, the internationally recognised Toitū accreditation agency granted Lava Glass net carbon zero certification.

Not content with merely treading more lightly in the environment, they have planted about 250,000 trees and engaged an ecologist to ensure they place the right species in the right area. The planting is ongoing, including 26 hectares of native trees to help create flight corridors for birds.

They have drastically reduced emissions – a 75 percent cut in the first two years - by switching to an electric furnace that harnesses locally-produced geothermal electricity. Waste has been slashed by the same amount through more extensive reduction, reuse, recycling and composting measures. 

Most plastic bubble wrap has gone, replaced by eco-friendly paper-based packaging. Petrol-powered vehicles are out, electric ones are in. Electric tools are used for grounds maintenance, too.

Lynden has also invented a furnace that utilises biodiesel, made from New Zealand-grown canola oil. Once they have perfected their systems, they will share what they have learned with the arts community to encourage others to follow suit.

Making sustainable history

The innovative pair met in art school in 1996, where they both tried working with ceramics and sculpture, jewellery-making and printing before individually finding their favourite medium.

“We both really loved glass,” Christine says. “But we were doing much more general glass before moving to Taupō.

"Here, where we set up the studio, we are definitely influenced by the incredible beauty around us. We have the lake and Huka Falls up the road, geothermal steam. After we did the Tongariro Crossing, we came back and used the colours we’d seen to make our Tongariro volcanic series.”

Christine Robb

“Lynden is always working on new tools and techniques so he can do this in different ways.

“It’s an expensive exercise, and we don’t receive any funding , but we believe in going the extra mile for sustainability. I don’t think we’ll ever be done, we’re probably our harshest critics but we want to be part of the history of glass and do it in a way that hasn’t damaged the environment.

“What we’re making is heirloom pieces and we hope people will be digging them up in 3000 years’ time.”


Five Sustainable Taupō Stars

Christine recommends: 

Sail Barbary – This is the only electric commercial boat on the lake. It offers a sustainable way to visit the Maori Rock carvings.

Huka Falls River Cruise  We always send our visitors on this cruise, which is an all-weather activity. Dave the driver has incredible knowledge of the river and he is also involved in pest control on the riverside, which has been instrumental in bringing back the bird life to Wairakei Tourist Park.

XOX florist - the scent inside this little workshop is incredible and it’s a cute place to drop into if you are in Taupō. Kirsten uses only New Zealand-grown flowers, she offers fresh and dried bouquets and all her practices are sustainable.

Spacecraft - One of the best stockist of sustainable retail products anywhere.

Huka Honey Hive - Has a huge range of honey and bee merchandise and we all know bees are good for the planet.


 

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