How to Green Your Lighting

How we light up our homes and workspaces can have a big impact on our environment. The types of bulbs, fixtures and power we use in combination with our habits can add up to “very significant greening.” A conventional incandescent bulb only turns around from 5-10% of its consumed energy into light … the rest is wasted as heat. Considering this, “there’s no limit to how green your lighting can be.” We found the following top 10 highly effective ways to go greener on

1. CFL: The better bulb
Compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) are those swirley little guys that look like soft-serve ice cream cones. Actually, they come in a myriad of different shapes, sizes, and colors of light. Economically speaking, they’re a great deal, too. CFLs cost a bit more than an incandescent, but use about a quarter as much energy and last many times longer (usually around 10,000 hours). It is estimated that a CFL pays for its higher price after about 500 hours of use. After that, it’s money in your pocket.
2. Get the LEDs out
LEDs are a definite favorite. LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are a technology that allows for extremely energy efficient and extremely long-lasting light bulbs. LEDs are just starting to hit the consumer market in a big (read affordable) way and still cost quite a bit more than even CFLs, but use even less energy and last even longer.
3. Materials
Light isn’t all about the bulbs. Having eco-friendly lamps and light fixtures is key to greening your lighting. When scouting for new gear, keep your eyes out for lamps made with natural, recycled, or reused materials. Lights made from recycled materials include metal, glass, or plastic, and natural materials can include felt, cloth or wood.
4. Disposabulb
Fluorescents last a long time, but when they’re dead, they have to be properly disposed of. CFLs, like all florescent bulbs, do contain a small amount of mercury, which means they definitely can’t be thrown in the trash. Every city has different services for recycling, so you’ll need to see what’s offered in your area. LEDs, to our knowledge, do not contain mercury, but the jury may still be out on how to best recycle them.
5. Wall warts
Power adaptors, or “wall warts” as they’re affectionately called, are those clunky things you find on many electrical cords, including those attached to lamps and some light fixtures. You’ll notice that they stay warm even when their device is turned off. This is because they in fact draw energy from the wall all the time. One way to green your lighting is to unplug their wall warts when not in use, attached lights to a power strip and turn off the whole switch when not in use, or get your hands on a “smart” power strip that knows when the device is off.
6. Day-lighting
By far, the best source of light we know is (yes, you guessed it) the sun, which gives off free, full-spectrum light all day. Make the most of daylight by keeping your blinds open (sounds obvious but you might be surprised). If you want to go a little farther, put in some skylights, or, if you are designing a home or doing a renovation, put as many windows on the south-facing side of the house as possible (or north-facing if you live in the southern hemisphere). To take it even further, sunlight can be “piped” inside via fiber optics and other light channeling technologies.
7. Good habits
As efficient as your lighting equipment might be, it doesn’t make sense to have lights on when no one’s around. Turn off lights in rooms or parts of the house where no one is. Teach your family and friends about it too and it will become second nature. If you want to get a little more exact, follow these rules: Standard incandescent: turn off even if you leave the room for just seconds. Compact fluorescent: turn off if you leave the room for 3 minutes. Standard fluorescent: turn off if you leave the room for 15 minutes.
8. Do it yourself
We’re always encouraging people to take matters into their own hands. So much great eco-innovation comes when people create the things they can’t find elsewhere. Lighting is an especially accessible and rewarding thing to tackle. For some inspiration, check out the Cholesterol lamp made from cast-off plastic egg cartons,
9. Dimmers and motion sensors
Motion sensors can be a good way to keep lights turned off when they’re not needed, and dimmers can give you just the right amount of life, and timers can be set to turn things on and off when needed.
10. Get green power
A great way to green your lighting is to buy green power. More and more electric utilities are offering customers a green power option on their bill. Signing up for green power usually means paying a few more dollars a month to support energy in the grid that comes from renewable sources like wind, solar, or biogas.


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