Green Sustainable Lighting

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Beyond the $10 LED Light Bulb March 12, 2013

The industry has recently been flooded with press covering a new LED light bulb that you can buy with an Alexander Hamilton. The $9.97 40-Watt replacement is from Cree, a leading manufacturer of high quality LEDs. (They are also releasing a 60-Watt replacement for a less headline-worthy $12.97.)

As far as incandescent replacements go, it’s hard to dispute that it’s a great buy for your dollar. However, while comforting to look at, the traditional A-style lamp represents an inefficient use of LED technology. LEDs are directional; to achieve the almost-360-degree glow of incandescent lighting, manufacturers place diodes facing outwards from the middle of a lamp. Usually this is then topped by a globe-shaped lens to soften the light while also hiding the mechanics inside and mimic Edison’s design.

That lens is responsible for blocking approximately 10% of the lumen output from the LEDs. Beyond that, inevitably some light gets wasted where it’s not useful: on the ceiling or bouncing around within the very fixture in which the omnidirectional bulb is installed.

This is why spotlights and downlights are emerging as the leading application for LEDs: rather than molding this directional light quality into a less efficient version of itself, it is optimized through bulbs and fixtures that transmit light only where it’s needed. In a 2010 shareholders meeting, Cree CEO Chuck Swoboda even acknowledged the production of A-lamps as a necessary means to appeal to old-fashioned attitudes rather than fulfilling substantial lighting needs:

“It’s not about the light bulb. Yes, we are going to do things to enable companies… to do the light bulb. But at the end of the day… this represents only about 10 percent of the market opportunity,” Swoboda said, calling upon partners to think outside the bulb. “…(T)he light bulb will eventually become completely irrelevant. It only exists because it breaks all the time and you have to replace it. Fundamentally there’s no reason to have a bulb when the LED lasts as long as the rest of the lighting fixture. And so while we will do things to move the market, we will do things in this area because it does change consumer perception, it is just a step toward really changing an industry.”

In line with this goal, this $9.97 LED bulb will be brought to you exclusively through Home Depot. This is good for widespread adoption of energy saving lights, but bad for the small businesses whose products push innovation within this disruptive technology. If it’s at all economically feasible for you, join the green revolution by purchasing LED bulbs from smaller, higher end companies rather than big box stores. Or, to support both the engine of our economy AND the technology, consider LED recessed light fixtures and other LED-optimized systems that constitute the other 90% of the lighting market.

 

Repost: 20 Eco-friendly Streetlights July 14, 2010

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invisible streetlight via LEDWaves LED lightingThere’s an awesome, awesome list up on one of my favorite sites, Ecofriend. In their words, “The rise in the demand for energy and the decline in its supply have made product manufacturers and designers come up with sustainable alternatives that help save energy or run on renewable sources of energy. The street lighting industry has also witnessed the change with many manufacturers unveiling next-gen solar-powered street lights and designers coming up with even better lighting solutions for the future. Boosting this green trend, here are 20 sustainable street lighting systems that can make streets green and safe.”

This is the kind of innovation that really appeals to me. All of the designs incorporate some combination of solar panels, wind turbines, LED lights, and other elements of sustainable energy. Here are the ones that especially caught my attention:

The Invisible Streetlight (upper right) by Johgoh Lee integrates double injection silicon, aluminum and a photo capacitor into a lovely organic leaf design, ideal for wooded roads. It is designed to be invisible during the day and to glow all night long. My main concern? It’s hard to tell from just the pictures, but they don’t seem to be secured in any clear way, so I’d worry about roving thugs stealing these fixtures. But maybe I’m just projecting my own desire to have one of these pretty lamps in my home. 

trash powered streetlight via LEDWaves LED lightingThe Trash Powered Street Lamp (at left) serves the dual purpose of illuminating the streets at night and composting! Designed by  Haneum Lee, it composts organic waste that users throw into a wastebasket and then uses the methane which is released as a byproduct to fuel the lights. Unfortunately, this also strikes me as a “Only in a perfect world” kind of innovation. How many times have you seen random garbage tossed into an inappropriate recycling bin? Again, I kind of just want this for my house. This would save me a walk from the kitchen to the compost heap in my backyard on a nightly basis. (Though I suppose I do need the exercise.) And with energy-efficient LED lights, it wouldn’t require a whole lot of garbage to run itself. Also compost lamppost is just so much fun to say.

light tree via LEDWaves LED lightingFinally, here’s possibly the most functional of my faves: the Light Tree by designer Omar I. Huerta Cardoso (at right). Its tree-like body is lined with nanotube solar cells and aqueducts leading from the water-filled base to seeds at the top. In addition to feeding plant life, the water conducts light from high-intensity LEDs stationed near the bottom. I have to say, the appearance of the tree kind of bothers me (it looks like EVE from Wall-E did it with a tree) but the dual functionality of sustainable LED street lighting and oxygen-providing plant life really wins the package for me.

There are a few more streetlights that I could go on about, but I highly recommend checking out the rest of the list for yourself. I’m not involved in civil engineering, but the possibility of seeing these eco-friendly designs on our streets in the near future is kind of putting me in my happy place.

 

Green Sustainable LED Lighting… in a Bag July 12, 2010

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Designers Diane von Furstenberg, Tommy Hilfiger, Rogan, Loomstate, Zero + Maria Cornejo, Lutz & Patmos, and Loeffler Randall have joined forces with Nairobi tailor Joseph Muteti to create a line of handbags that supply both light and power. Each bag features a solar panel with a high-powered LED light and a USB connection one can use to charge a cell phone. They are being auctioned off on eBay until July 15th, with the proceeds going towards the Portable Light Project.

loomstate bag with solar charger and LED lightloeffler randall bag with solar panel and LED light

Fashion plates should appreciate how each bag reflects the personal style of its designers. I, for one, am really digging Loomstate’s nautical theme. Cute! And while I’m not a huge fan of leather, Loeffler Randall’s slick carry-all is versatile enough to go with jeans and flats or with an LBD.

Pardon my girling out on this. Cutesiness aside, Portable Light has a really great mission to bring sustainable power to people in developing countries. Through photovoltaics and solid state lighting, they are empowering these underserved people, especially women, with the ability to read, support cottage industries and facilitate community based education and health care. And by using energy-efficient LED lighting, they are setting a great example for both the needy and, well, people who feel the need to spend a ton of money on designer bags.

 

Infrequent Bulb Changes = Less Garbage July 9, 2010

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via blog.ledwaves.com

Have you ever heard of the floating islands of garbage around the world? Most notable is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but there are more growing within every major ocean gyre (pictured at right). These garbage patches are where things we throw out go to die, if by die you mean get carried out to sea and hang out for centuries while causing damage to marine life. Well, it turns out that Antarctica may be getting their own garbage patch soon. According to Discovery News, the British Antarctic Survey and Greenpeace found plastic packaging in the Amundsen Sea. A survey of the surface waters and the seabed revealed a healthy Arctic ecosystem, but that seems likely to change, since the area where the packaging was found represents the farthest reaches of the ocean for mankind.

80% of ocean pollution is land-based, or caused by man. It is estimated that 30% of landfill waste is packaging. By buying products that are concentrated or that last longer, you can reduce the amount of packaging that you send to the landfills and, ultimately, the ocean. LED lights last twice as long as CFLs (and don’t contain mercury, amounts of which are showing up in fish at an alarming rate). Additionally, since they are shatterproof, they don’t need to be wrapped in that super-thick plastic that you see encasing CFL bulbs. It’s just one more way that buying LED lights can help save the world, one bulb at a (long) time.

 

Repost: Bennington, VT Sheriff’s Dept. Goes Greener July 8, 2010

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image courtesy of benningtonsheriff.org

In further news of my beloved Green Mountain State becoming even greener (I’ma need to create a new Vermont tag), the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department has recently added two energy-saving measures to their squad cars: IdleRight devices, and LED light bars on the roofs. According to the Rutland Herald, the IdleRight unit reduces gas consumption by automatically monitering voltage and shutting off when the car idles. The reduced voltage preserves the car’s battery, and since the car isn’t idling as much it reduces wear on the engine.

The LED light bars should use less than a fifth of the wattage used by the halogen light bars you see on most police cruisers. Although the upfront cost of $900 per LED light bar is considerably high, a mechanic working for the Bennington County Sheriff’s Department predicts that the gas savings will basically pay for the new additions within six months! This is a significant decision both energy- and cost-wise, as gas prices are certain to get higher. (Side note: As a one-time resident of Bennington, I can vouch for how much they care about gas prices. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and reduced supplies across the country, the headlines on local papers read something like, “GAS PRICES RISE ABOVE $4!!! And by the way, tragedy in New Orleans.”)

 

Repost: Retrofitting an old flashlight July 7, 2010

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Darph Bobo shares this neat step-by-step project on Instructables Workshop: How to turn a dead flashlight into an uber LED light.  It’s safe, fun (you get to crush a light bulb in your hand!), and best of all, simple. I don’t consider myself very handy at all but I definitely have the means to do this myself.

I love this project because of its marriage between the sustainability of energy-efficient LED lights and the greenness of repurposing old, spent electronics instead of sending them to the landfill.

 

Repost: DIY Projects for Soon-to-Be Banned Plastic Bags July 2, 2010

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plastic bag lamp from Urban Threads via LEDWaves led lightsIn response to California’s pending ban on plastic bags for retail, Popular Mechanics has posted a few suggestions for what to do with one’s old bags. Included on the list is a project for a plastic bag lampshade, with the suggestion to use an LED bulb to prevent the material from bursting into flames. (It’s good advice. Incandescents and fluorescent bulbs – even CFLs – get extremely hot to the touch, and you don’t want to smell burning plastic.)

I’m loving the idea of this project. Now you can express your commitment to sustainability not just with the kind of light you’re using, but also with the fixture it’s in! I’ve been a supporter of BYOBag for a long time now (my favorite canvas tote has Hello Kitty on it), but, like everyone else, I still have an overflowing “bag o’ bags” to deal with in my house. LED Waves sells affordable LED light bulbs for this project, so you won’t be breaking the bank to achieve this ghetto-fab look.