4 ways upgrading to high-efficiency LED lighting can cut carbon & reduce environmental impact to meet sustainability goals.
The urgent push to reduce pollution and slow or reverse the impact of climate change has prompted many companies to adopt aggressive sustainability goals, with many pledging to become carbon neutral in the next few decades. Not only is it the right thing to do for our health, our planet and for our future, but evidence also points to the potential for sustainability to drive improved financial performance.
In order to achieve those objectives, organizations are exploring a multitude of options and strategies aimed at eco-friendly operations, from minimizing waste to using recyclable and sustainable materials, optimizing supply chain and shipping/distribution practices and even installing pollution control systems. While these are all excellent strategies, they can also be rather complex and costly.
Many companies are surprised to learn there’s actually a much easier solution to sustainability that’s found by simply looking up. Upgrading to high-efficiency, high-performance industrial LED lighting can have a dramatic impact on improving eco-friendly operations. And, as an added bonus, replacing antiquated HPS, halogen and fluorescent fixtures with LED makes for an overall safer work environment as well.
Here are four ways LED lighting can help any organization meet its sustainability goals.
- Lower energy consumption. This is typically a top-line goal in most sustainability programs, as lowering energy use has a dramatic and downstream effect on cutting carbon emissions and reducing carbon footprint. While there are many ways to achieve this goal through operational efficiencies, upgrading to LED lighting is considered “low hanging fruit” because it offers a near instant ROI and substantial bang for your buck.
Industrial lighting alone consumes 58 TWh of electricity each year, enough to light 1/3 of all homes in the U.S.1, and produces more than 41 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses. Modern, high-efficiency LED fixtures use up to 90% less energy per fixture2 than conventional HID lights, cutting energy use—and carbon emissions—substantially. In fact, studies show that switching to LED fixtures at U.S. facilities alone would remove 28 million metric tons of carbon emissions from the atmosphere—the equivalent of removing 6 million cars from the road each year—as well as 67,000 tons of nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide, the leading causes of acid rain, smog and human respiratory issues.3
- Automate to improve operational efficiency. Automation represents a huge opportunity for organizations to leverage technology to improve efficiency in a wide range of areas, which can contribute to lower energy utilization and cost. Many companies are surprised to learn that lighting automation can play a key role in achieving those goals. However, legacy lighting technology is not compatible with lighting automation solutions like occupancy sensors and daylight harvesting sensors and controls. The extended warm-up period required of HPS makes it extremely inefficient (and dangerous, in some instances) to turn the lights off and on, plus repeated cycling can damage both HPS and fluorescent fixtures and shorten their lifespan.
LED fixtures, on the other hand, are extremely well-suited for lighting automation, providing an opportunity to cut energy use and emissions by an additional 50%4, on top of the already 90% per-fixture energy savings. By using sensors to turn off or dim the lights when not needed, companies can cut carbon emissions significantly with zero impact on operations and no safety risk.
- Reduce waste. Certainly, reducing waste is a critical sustainability strategy—the less material going into landfills, the better. And while moving to more sustainable materials, packaging and recycling can help, most companies overlook the amount of waste conventional lighting creates. Especially in heavy industrial environments, legacy lighting requires frequent bulb and fixture change outs, which means companies not only have to dispose of discarded equipment, but they also have to deal with packaging and storage of replacements, not to mention the impact of manufacturing and transporting replacement bulbs.
Because LEDs can last at least 3X longer than conventional fixtures5, this dramatically reduces the number of change outs required, as well as the waste generated from discarded bulbs, fixtures and packaging. Switching to LED can also lower the energy, fuel consumption and emissions related to transporting replacement equipment to the facility. Even better, many parts of some LED fixtures are fully recyclable, and there is work ongoing right now to develop the first fully recyclable industrial LED light fixture.
- Eliminate hazardous materials. Dealing with hazardous materials is not only dangerous for staff, but it also creates an environmental concern and added costs for disposal. Convention HPS fixtures contain enough mercury to poison an entire classroom of children, which puts workers at risk of exposure when bulbs break (which is inevitable), but it also requires that hazmat-containing bulbs be disposed of properly, which adds to the cost and environmental impact of disposal. LED fixtures contain no hazardous materials, which eliminates the health risk to workers as well as the added cost and environmental concern with disposal. Many industrial facilities already must deal with hazmat issues as part of their production process. Eliminating them from lighting is an easy way to make a significant impact on sustainability.
Implementing sustainable strategies should be a top priority for companies in every industry and taking even the smallest steps can go a long way toward making a big impact. Upgrading to modern, sustainable, high-efficiency LED lighting is one of the simplest and most effective eco-friendly strategies that not only benefits the planet, but also makes for a safer working environment and a healthier bottom line.
Fariyal Khanbabi is Dialight Group CEO & Chairman of Dialight Foundation. She is also the 2020 winner of Silver Stevie® Award in the Woman of the Year – Manufacturing category. In the past, she occupied the position of Chief Financial Officer for Blue Ocean Group Ltd. and Chief Financial Officer at Britannia Bulk Holdings, Inc. and Chief Financial Officer at Britannia Bulk Plc (a subsidiary of Britannia Bulk Holdings, Inc.). Fariyal Khanbabi received an undergraduate degree from the University of Leeds.
1 U.S. Dept. of Energy, “Lighting Market Characterization”; ECG analysis
2 GE “ROI of LED”
3 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Final Mercury and Air Toxics Standards”; U.S. Dept. of Energy, “Lighting Market Characterization”; https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/greenhouse-gas-emissions-typical-passenger-vehicle-0
4 ECG analysis
6 U.S. Dept. of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration 29 CFR 1910.1000, Table Z-2; ECG analysis
7 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency