Recent reports commissioned by the US Department of Energy and Osram Sylvania indicate that LED is slowly but surely becoming the preeminent technology in new lighting applications. This is great news for the environment, due to the efficiency of LED lighting, but there are still other factors to consider when choosing the right outdoor lighting. The brightest light for the fewest watts might help with the energy bill, but it is not necessarily the best way to help the planet.
Efficiency is a great selling point for LEDs in an increasingly environmentally-conscious world. Reducing the effects of global warming by decreasing damaging emissions from wasteful power consumption is an important part of conservation efforts. However, many people do not realize the direct, negative impact that the wrong lighting can have on their immediate surroundings. In heavily populated areas, bright lighting contributes to light pollution— that cloying orange haze that obliterates the night sky. Astronomers, in particular, are pushing to significantly reduce light produced by cities, particularly those that surround important stargazing facilities.
Light pollution also has a detrimental effect on local wildlife. In coastal areas, the bright lights of beachfront properties has been directly linked to a reduction in the number of nesting sea turtles. Not only does the excess illumination discourage pregnant sea turtles from nesting, but it also lures the hatchlings away from the their natural nautical habitat. Baby sea turtles hatch at night, and are programmed to head for the brightest point on the horizon— generally the moon hanging over the sea. On a dark beach, this is usually a reliable instinct, but glaring white light from mankind inevitably leads many hatchlings away from the water to certain death.
Further in-land, other nocturnal species feel the effects of bright lighting. Bats, which are crucial nighttime pollinators and insect population control experts, are easily disoriented by bright lights. Light pollution will drive out bat populations, which can topple entire ecosystems. While many are afraid of them, there are others who understand the importance of these flying mammals and the services they provide. In some Florida towns, where the bugs are notoriously numerous, people build gothic towers to welcome bats back to town.
The good news is there are energy efficient options for outdoor lighting that will pose no threat to species who are used to living in the dark. Amber LEDs are a cost effective way to protect natural habitats. Amber LED emits light at a frequency that nocturnal animals cannot see. To humans, the emitted light is a deep orange color which provides plenty of illumination to see by.
Amber LED is not perfect for every outdoor lighting application—you wouldn’t want to attempt a round of tennis in a deep orange court. However, for outdoor lighting that is generally used on a regular basis, there seems to be few reasons not to choose the most energy efficient, environmentally friendly option.