Are LED Lights Bad for the Environment? 6 Quick Facts


Are LED Lights Bad for the Environment

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 semiconductor materials such as gallium arsenide.

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

In most cases, the casing is made of either glass or plastic.

All of these materials are non-renewable and therefore not sustainable.

In addition, environmentally harmful greenhouse gases are emitted during the mining of the raw materials for glass and plastic and during their further processing.

However, this is not only true for LED lights, but for other types of lights as well.

Because they’re generally recyclable and can last up to a decade, LED lights don’t need to be replaced often.

Although LED lights are extremely energy efficient, they still require energy.

Most of the world’s energy consumption still depends on fossil fuels and thus contributes to climate change.

However, that doesn’t mean that solar or battery-powered LED lights are more sustainable than those powered by the grid.

That’s because both (solar and battery powered LEDs) contain batteries that are also made from non-renewable materials such as lithium.

Additionally, older ones – such as alkaline batteries – are rarely recycled.

Although rechargeable batteries have longer lifespans, they do not eliminate reliance on non-renewable materials.

In addition, batteries are not always disposed of correctly and are only rarely recycled, which also has a negative impact on the environment.

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. 

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 very energy-efficient.

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

Of the electricity they do use, 95% is converted into light, and only 5% is lost as heat.

Given that lighting accounts for about 15% of the average household’s electricity bill, LED lights can cut those costs significantly.

Incidentally, quite the opposite is the case with incandescent light bulbs: 95% of the electrical energy is emitted as heat and only 5% as visible light – in other words, they are really more heaters than light sources.

3. Are LED Lights Recyclable?

About 90% of an LED light bulb are recyclable – although the process is challenging – but they should not be disposed of in your home recycling bin.

Regular recycling centers where 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 or return them to the vendor where you bought them from.

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 approximately 5% 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. 

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

That reduction would lower CO2 emissions from power plants by more than 160 million metric tons.

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 incandescent 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 light can last up to 25,000 hours or more, while you can expect around 8,000 from a CFL bulb, but only 1,000 hours from an incandescent bulb.

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