This week, guest blogger Karen Johnson enlightens us about making a smart choice for efficient, cost effective, environmentally friendly lighting. Karen gives weekly tips for sustainable living in her newsletter, Earth For All Ages.
For us humans, light helps us see and influences our health and wellbeing. Different aspects of our internal chemistry are triggered by light and darkness. It’s not accidental that we wake and become alert when the sun comes up, and settle down as the sun sets. Lowering light levels in the winter send many people into the winter blues while spring sunshine makes many people feel happy and contented. Even a few minutes in the sun can lift our mood.
How about the lights we use in schools? Experiments to evaluate the impact of light on learning show that some levels of brightness and color are good for general lessons, while cooler colors support increased concentration during tests and warmer colors can help calm down hyperactive children. Imagine schools in the future where lights can be modulated throughout the day to support a calm, focused learning environment. That may not be too far off!
Since we humans can’t create our own light, we have to put light into our environment. And that starts with a light bulb. Kind of like the single light in a firefly.
However ... producing light bulbs is a complicated technological feat. Unlike the little firefly that is born with a light, when we create a light bulb, we mine metals, create glass, build factories for production, and enlist all kinds of transportation to deliver parts and materials from around the world. The energy used to actually light the bulb involves burning fossil fuels (until we come up with something better) in giant facilities, which produce emissions that go back out into the atmosphere. We then must dispose of the used bulbs. That adds up to tons of wasted material, some of which is toxic and seeps from landfills into our rivers, streams, and oceans, where it enters the food chain and potentially lands back on our kitchen table!
So it matters what we choose at the individual level, because it will add up at the global level.
What is the average person to do? Get some information and make a simple, wise choice.
When buying a new bulb or switching out an old one, choose an LED bulb. These are the newest generation light bulbs, and are different in many ways from the older incandescent bulbs (the glass ones with the little filament inside) or more recent CFL’s (Compact Florescent bulbs, the curly white ones.)
Why change to LEDs?
1. You can save MONEY. Yes, they cost a little more at first, but they last so much longer. Each LED bulb is rated to last over 100,000 hours. That means if you left it on all day, 24 hours a day, it would last for 24 years. You save money by not paying for new bulbs or the cost of having someone install them. The older incandescent bulbs only last about a year before they need replacement.
2. LED bulbs are very efficient, requiring considerably less energy to operate. That means you save on your monthly electric bill.
3. LED lights are better for the environment. Why? Because when electrical energy is produced and consumed, carbon dioxide is released into the environment. Less energy needed equals less CO2 produced and released into the atmosphere. Fluorescent lights release small amounts of mercury into the environment while in use and CFLs have mercury in the bulb itself. This is a problem if the bulb breaks in your home, and if it breaks in a landfill, the mercury seeps into the soil and leaches into the global water supply. LED lighting, however, does not contain mercury.
4. LEDs provide better light. All light is not created equal. Some lights are considered “warmer,” some “cooler,” and some more like natural light. Different types of light affect color perception, our moods, and even our ability to concentrate or relax. LED lights are available in warm and cool tones.
5. LED’s improve safety and decrease liability. Well-lit areas reduce the risks of both injury and crime. Because LED light bulbs last so much longer, there is less risk of bulbs burning out, leaving an area in the dark.
Toni Albert, M.Ed., is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her lifelong love for nature, children, and books inspired her to commit her publishing business, Trickle Creek Books, to “teaching kids to care for the Earth.”