We’ve all heard about LED bulbs being the next “bright spot” in the sustainability revolution. But just how bright are they? The technology is now firmly established and many businesses are switching their bulbs to LEDs, bypassing CFLs entirely, or if they’ve already made the switch to CFLs from incandescents, thinking about upgrading. (See this Cleantechnica article for how much more efficient an LED is versus a CFL, for instance).
The challenge is the upfront cost. LED lights do cost more than CFLs. CFLs may use slightly more electricity than LEDs, but is that enough to make the jump? Perhaps not by itself, but there are two other major considerations at play. LEDs last far longer than incandescents, and longer even than CFLs, so the replacement cost is less. But perhaps the most important issue is the mercury. CFL bulbs contain mercury vapor, and broken CFLs need to be handled with care and disposed of properly. In some cases, disposing of CFLs becomes a huge community issue, as this example in Minnesota showed. CFLs, due to the mercury content, have also been shown to be damaging to human skin. LEDs contain no mercury.
Carl Goehner of LED provider HudNut, shows me a really neat exhibit his company has built to showcase the benefits of LEDs. Check it out!
Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. As a serial eco-entrepreneur who has started, grown and sold multiple green businesses, Scott believes that capitalism, true capitalism, can be a powerful force for change, but that our current version of capitalism is severely hampered by perverse subsidies and negative externalities that make unsustainable products less expensive than healthier alternatives. Scott is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, and an organic gardener. Find Scott on Google Plus