Green Sustainable Lighting

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Infrequent Bulb Changes = Less Garbage July 9, 2010

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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: 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.


Repost: An LED That Mimics Old Standby / American Consumers Apparently Don’t Follow Lighting News June 25, 2010

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via the New York Times Green Blog:

In more sustainable design news, the New York Times Blog reports that Osram Sylvania has produced a new LED bulb (at right) that mimics the shape of a traditional Edison light bulb. The LEDs’ light emanates from the top, and they are supported by thick, arched heat sinks. It uses 12 Watts and is supposed to produce almost as much light as a standard 60-Watt lamp.

I have already mentioned that I prefer the modern look and functionality of an industrial LED light bulb (like the one at left), but I can see how one that can’t let go of old-fashioned lights could be “tricked” into buying this bulb. As someone who has worked with LED lights and knows a little bit about them, though, I can’t see how these heat sinks can be too effective. Usually they are composed of lots and lots of little ridges to increase surface area for heat dissipation; the chunky arches look like they minimize surface area. Anyway, I’m sure the heat sink on the Sylvania bulb works adequately, enough to be approved for sale. I’d probably just use oven mitts while replacing it.

The article goes on to make two more interesting points. First, it reveals another application for LED lighting: refrigerators used in retail. The lights in any refrigerator with a glass front are on 24/7, so there is a strong case for replacing the fluorescent tubes they typically use with more energy-efficient CFLs or, even better, LEDs. The lamps that you see in most refrigerators also generate considerable heat, with requires more work on the unit’s part because it needs to be cooled to maintain the proper temperature. This is where LEDs would again be extremely helpful, as they run a lot cooler than any other type of light bulb.

The most thought-provoking part of this article for me is related to the federal phase-out of inefficent lamps like incandescents. Though the lighting industry is working hard on developing marketable LED replacement bulbs, a survey of Sylvania customers revealed that 74% of them are unaware of the coming change. This is two years after Congress passed the bill for the phase-out. Rick Leaman, chief executive of Osram Sylvania, says he fears a backlash when consumers are unable to buy the old-fashioned bulbs they’re used to. He wants the government to start a campaign to raise awareness of the lighting revolution that the country is poised to see.

I guess I’m not surprised that three out of four Americans don’t know about the federal phase-out of the inefficient bulbs that are all around them. (Heck, according to the FCC, 80% of American broadband users [myself included] don’t know the speed of their own home broadband connections, which they also pay for and use.) I suppose I’m surprised that both the government and most light bulb manufacturers haven’t already taken the initiative to advertise the phase-out themselves.

When television was making the switch to digital, we saw tons of commercials warning viewers about it (albeit mostly paid for my digital cable companies), and the issue was also on the news a lot. It would make the US Department of Energy look good to show that they’re working on ways to help save the environment while maintaining quality of life for us. So I believe it’s on both the government and lamp sellers to publicize the phase-out which will effect the entire country. While I, for one, welcome our new LED overlords, it’s important for people of all backgrounds to understand what’s going on, process it, and think about what it has to do with sustainable living.


(Earth)Healthy Competition June 23, 2010

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According to CBS News, the average American consumes about 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year. (To put that into a little perspective, that’s twice the usage of an average person in England.) And 22% of that energy is devoted to lighting. Furthermore, Americans are also increasing their electricity usage by 30% a year.

To meet the growing demands of the country, the United States Department of Energy is sponsoring the L-Prize contest, which offers $10 million (and probably a lucrative federal buying deal) to whoever makes the most energy-efficient light bulb which creates the best light. LED light manufacturers are way ahead of the game, since LEDs use considerably less electricity than standard incandescents and burn way cooler. (95% of an incandescent bulb’s electricity usage generates heat; the resulting 5% creates light.)

philips led waves light bulb L-prize

image via

Philips has put forth the first submission to the L-Prize contest, with a bulb design that uses 80% less energy than an incandescent and half the energy of a CFL. At $40, it’s supposed to save homeowners $300-$600 on utilities and last up to ten years.

While I applaud the efforts of Philips, these specs aren’t exactly groundbreaking in the LED industry. I’m looking forward to seeing what innovations other companies produce, more in the name of sustainability and less for the $10 million cash prize.

via cbsnews


Swedish Meatballs no longer the best part of shopping at IKEA June 17, 2010

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Swedish housewares giant IKEA will be phasing out sales of incandescent light bulbs starting next month. As current stocks of high-energy incandescent bulbs sell out, shoppers can expect to find longer-lasting and more energy-efficient CFLs and LEDs.

IKEA has 48 stores in North America. Stores in France and Australia have already started phasing out their old bulbs. The company plans to complete their sustainable lighting makeover by January 1 of next year.

Major kudos to IKEA for staying ahead of the game and ditching the incandescents before federally mandated phaseout of 2012!