Are LED Lights Bad for the Environment? 6 Quick Facts

Are LED Lights Bad for the Environment

published on November 28th, 2022

You might have noticed LED lights are becoming more common and wondered if they’re more sustainable.

LED lights are better for the environment than other light bulbs as they’re energy-efficient and have a long lifespan. 

With that said, they can contribute to light pollution, which is concerning.

Here’s everything you need to know about the environmental impact of LED lights. 

1. How Do LED Lights Affect the Environment?

LED lights are usually made from gallium arsenide, which is a type of metal.

You might also find LED lights made from aluminum gallium arsenide and aluminum gallium indium phosphide.  

They’ll also have a glass casing.

From the get-go, these materials are non-renewable, meaning they are unsustainable.

Although they are generally recyclable and can last up to a decade, people will not need to replace their LED lights often.

While LED lights are energy-efficient, they still require energy.

Most energy use worldwide is still reliant on fossil fuels, so it contributes to climate change.

Batteries are not necessarily more sustainable, either. 

Batteries are made from unsustainable materials such as metal. The likes of alkaline batteries are rarely recycled.

While rechargeable batteries have a longer life span, they don’t eliminate reliance on non-renewable materials and the fact that batteries are not always disposed of correctly. 

With that said, these days, you can find solar-powered LED lights that are more sustainable. 

Many of these are for small outdoor fixtures, so you do not need to have solar panels in your home already to use them. 

One of the bigger concerns about LED lights is light pollution and blue light exposure. This can negatively impact the ecosystem.

For example, animals and insects like bats and moths can have their movement altered due to light pollution, potentially attracting them closer to humans, where they’re considered a pest and away from food and shelter. 

Light pollution also means the stars are less visible, which leaves people feeling disconnected from nature.

As for wildlife, some animals still use the stars for navigation.

It can also disrupt the circadian rhythm of humans and animals, meaning their sleep schedule is altered. 

Poor sleep quality is associated with poor health outcomes.

This can also mean animals are not awake at ideal times to hunt prey. Even marine life is negatively impacted by light pollution.

For example, coral reefs rely on light from the sun and moon to regulate their responses and behavior. 

Research found that some species of coral experienced delayed gametogenesis and unsynchronized gamete release due to light pollution.

This is concerning as coral provides food and shelter for other kinds of marine life.

Coral is even a source of human medicine and helps protect against coastal erosion. 

2. Are LED Lights Energy-Efficient?

LED lights are energy-efficient.

Compared to standard light bulbs, they typically need 85% less electricity.

Of the electricity they do use, only 5% is lost as heat, with the rest directly lighting the bulb.

3. Are LED Lights Recyclable?

LED lights are recyclable, but they should not be disposed of in your home recycling bin.

The recycling centers these bins get sent to will not have the equipment to process LED lights.

Instead, you will need to send them to specific recycling centers, which may be inaccessible for some. 

4. Are LED Lights Toxic?

Generally, LED lights are not considered toxic. 

Some LEDs contain aluminum gallium arsenide (AGA). This may be toxic when inhaled and is even regarded as a carcinogen.

However, the concern surrounding this compound is for microelectronics industry workers.

So it is unlikely people will be exposed to enough or any of this compound to be concerned should a LED light break.

5. Do LED Lights Reduce Our Carbon Footprint?

LED lights can reduce our carbon footprint.

Given that in 2013, approximately 6% of global carbon dioxide emissions and 20% of total electricity consumption was due to lighting powered by electricity, this is promising. 

Not to mention, around 3% of global oil demand is to power lights. 

While solar-powered LED lights are the greenest option, battery-powered or electric LEDs are still pretty green. 

It’s estimated that 80% of lights used in 2030 will be LEDs and that doing so could cut back on powder consumption associated with lighting by 40%.

In 2017, it was found that using LED lights in outdoor spaces and buildings cut down carbon dioxide emissions associated with lighting by approximately 570 million tons. 

Research found that when lamps were replaced with LEDs, there were eight times less CO2 emissions and 6.7 times less energy consumption.  

6. Are LEDs More Eco-Friendly than Other Lights?

LED lights are more sustainable than other lights as they are more energy-efficient, use less electricity, and last longer. 

LEDs use approximately 40% less electricity than fluorescent lights and 80% less than incandescent lights.

Incandescent light bulbs are incredibly inefficient because they are effectively electric heaters which convert only a tiny fraction of the energy they use into visible light.

Although compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs are more efficient than incandescent light bulbs, they’re still not as energy-efficient as LEDs.

CFL lights are around 25% more efficient than standard (incandescent) light bulbs, but as mentioned earlier, LEDs use 85% less electricity.

LED lights are also sustainable due to their long lifespan.

An LED bulb can last up to 25,000 hours, while you can expect around 8,000 from a CFL bulb.

Meanwhile, an incandescent bulb can last only 1,000 hours, while high-intensity discharge (HID) lights can last up to 24,000 hours.

So, the less you need to replace your light bulbs, the more energy and resources are saved, as there is a reduced demand for new LEDs.

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