Policies & Programs
Last Update: November 7, 2010
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Environmental Impacts

There is growing concern for reducing the environmental impacts of lighting energy use and understanding the environmental implications of our lighting system choices. Lighting use in buildings has direct and indirect environmental consequences as a result of electricity generation. Electric lighting is currently responsible for 18% of the CO2 emissions from the building sector. In addition, energy use and natural resource consumption during equipment manufacturing, as well as the disposal of used equipment, have very real environmental impacts. Electric lighting can also have very direct impacts on the social, physical and biological environment due to light spilling beyond its intended area or time of use. All of these impacts are discussed in the sections below.

Energy & The Environment
Electricity use for lighting has many environmental impacts apart from the consumption of nonrenewable resources.  These impacts vary depending on how the electricity is generated.  Coal-fired power plants are associated with air pollution, acid rain, and they are also the largest source of air-born mercury emissions.   
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Resource Efficiency
Resource efficiency refers to how well a lighting manufacturer, designer, or other allied professional utilizes the natural materials and energy necessary to create and deliver a product or job that performs to given specifications.  There has been much discussion, but no consensus in the lighting field as to how this should be measured and reported.  In the absence of such conclusions, this section identifies some of the methods and concerns of the industry regarding resource efficiency.   
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Disposal Issues
As lighting products reach the end of their useful life, they continue to have an impact on the environment.  Some lighting products, such as LEDs use toxic materials during the manufacturing process and the end product is benign, while others contain toxins in the finished product and are considered hazardous waste.  Fluorescent and most HID lamps are in the second category and contain mercury in order to produce light.   
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Light Pollution
Urban and developed areas throughout the world have added electric lighting to support human activities at night, but that lighting can have unintended consequences.  The term “light pollution” was originally coined by the astronomical community to describe the clouding of the skies from urban sky glow that reduced visibility of the stars at night, and astronomers’ ability to study them.   
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Regulations & Incentives

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