DOE Names LEDs Most Environmentally-Friendly Lighting

We’ve suspected it for years, and now it’s been proven in rigorous, scientific testing: light emitting diodes, or LEDs, have lower environmental impact than any other type of lighting on the planet. The U.S. Department of Energy recently published the second installment of a three part report investigating the entire life-cycle of the LED lighting product, from manufacturing and transport, to use and disposal.

The first part of the report, LED Manufacturing and Performance [PDF], compares environmental and resource costs of the LED to other light bulb options, such as the incandescent bulb and the CFL. The second and most recent section considers both the direct and indirect material and process inputs to fabricate, ship, operate and dispose of LED products in 2012 and estimated for 2017.


Image via Shutterstock

Part 1 of the report, which was published in February, found that while over their entire lifecycle, LEDs and CFLs consume about the same amount of energy (about 3,900 MJ per 20 million lumen-hours), both are significantly more energy efficient than their incandescent counterparts, which consume about 15,100 MJ per 20 million lumen-hours. More importantly, the first phase of assessment found that LEDs consume less electricity to produce about the same amount of light as either alternative.

Part 2 of the report [PDF], published just weeks ago, delves deeper into the total environmental impact of our lighting choices, examining the manufacturing process of each type of light bulb. By comparing a CFL, an incandescent lamp, a 2012 Philips Endural LED, the DOE confirmed that the process for producing LEDs has far less of a negative environmental impact than the CFL or incandescent.

The report also projects that in five years, the environmental impacts of LEDs will be significantly lower than today’s LED products, based on expected near-term improvements in LED technology. The last part of the project, Part 3, will test LEDs for disposal thresholds.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog


  • Reply July 23, 2012

    Dave Bishop

    I can’t wait for LEDs or actually OLEDs to become perfected and reasonable costing. Also bright as a 100w incandescent. Good point about the environmental considerations in regards to production. OLED will reduce this even more. Thanks

    • Reply July 24, 2012

      Steve Barcik Amstel

      What do you think is reasonable?

      • Reply July 24, 2012

        Dave Bishop

        I have a few LEDs now. They are great. However the higher wattage replacements are still $$. Don’t recall exactly but I believe a 75w replacement was over $15. I won’t be buying any new non LED bulbs going forward. I even want to get rid of my CFL bulbs. I purchase 100% green energy from WE Energies so I am not that motivated yet.

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