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How are LED bulbs helping the natural environment? Artificial lights have been linked with light pollution at night, the loss of starry skies, and other misdemeanors in the natural world, however, there are different applications - some big, some small, where LEDs are having a positive impact on the environment and in conservation. Here are four examples:
A Small Role in Saving Australia’s Little Penguins
Southeast Australia in the time of Charles Darwin was full of coastal penguin colonies; especially of one of the smallest breeds, the Little Penguin also known by locals as the fairy penguin. 4,000 out of 32,000 live on Phillip Island off the Victoria coast. In Darwin’s days there were 10 colonies, but now there’s just one. Most of the conservation effort has involved buying back land, turning it over to nature, providing penguin bird boxes, and monitoring colony sizes and health. However, in order to sustain the conservation and nurturing project, the state turned to tourism and when they created an elevated walk, so tourists could see the birds without impacting on them, they turned to LEDs for the night lights. The low impact, high efficiency nature of the LED bulbs made for the perfect conservation night lights.
Effect of LEDs on Bats
External lighting affects bats in two major ways. The first is a disruption to the night sky provided by light pollution. The other is the impact night lights have on the insects on which bats tend to feed. Bat conservation groups in the UK are recommending the avoidance of short wavelength lights and lights which produce too much spill or have high UV contents.
Luckily LED lights lack both IR and UV radiation. Furthermore, they have an acceptable wavelength, are small, compact, durable, and crucially for bats - have little in the way of spill. The more focused and directional nature of these bulbs means that if outdoor lighting is needed, these present the least amount of risk to bats. LED street lighting and flood lighting therefore will aid bat populations compared to current light sources.
If you are looking to brighten up your yard or garden at night but still want to be mindful of your local bat population, LED Spotlights are great for general security without contributing to light pollution in your area.
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Protecting Asian Elephants
Every year an estimated 100 elephants and 400 people die in human-elephant clashes in the densely populated areas of central India. LED lights are being utilized by a conservation group in the Valparai elephant conservation area of Western Ghats to help reduce these conflicts. As well as being an important area for Asian elephants, the plateau is home to 70,000 coffee and tea plantation workers. These plantations are owned by 6 major corporations.
It is also home to around 80 to 100 elephants and these elephants have shown, as they tend to do, a consistent movement pattern. These elephants move up and down the Nadu Ar-Sholayar Riverine system through the middle of the plateau. Conservation groups, the Conflict Resolution Unit, the Forest Department, indigenous community members who track elephant movements, and the 6 major corporations came together to develop an efficient warning and tracking system designed to facilitate the free movement of elephants through the area.
GU10 LEDs have also been placed in similar ways to protect other endangered species around the globe. Because these lighting systems are often placed in remote areas with little power infrastructure it is crucial to lights that use as little energy as possible. This way, not only is the environmental footprint lessened by using LED technology over traditional bulbs, new power sources aren't needed to be brought in as well.
This could only have been achieved using low impact LED lighting installed into 24 locations across the 220 square KM of territory with the active cooperation of 5,000 families and at least 2 registered signallers in each locality. Each LED light is fitted with a SIM card registered to 3 mobile phones so if a volunteer spots the elephants in their area, they can activate the red warning light, allowing people in the area to be prepared for the elephants coming through. This has been combined with an awareness film for people to understand elephants better as well as the new system.Since the introduction of LED warning lights the number of incidents has almost halved and the average of 4 deaths a year has been cut to 0.
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The Overall Ecological Impact of LED Lighting
When selling light bulbs it is easy to concentrate on the personal or business economics of a retrofit. In short, LEDs cost less to run than rival types - between one-tenth and half depending on the rival bulb - and have both a longer lifespan and a far lower failure rate. This means households can save hundreds a year on their electricity bills. The savings for businesses are far greater and depend on the size.
Remember, it is important to realise that each individual's lighting needs, and savings realisations, will be different. Typically, the larger the home (and sometimes pool!) that you have will require more lighting once the natural sunlight has dissipated for the day.
However, let’s turn this around and look at the bigger picture. We have already reported on how a growing global population wanting to adopt a Western lifestyle is going to massively drive up energy demand. The solution is to create more energy efficient technology so both the production of electricity is more effective - less fossil fuels, more green technology, but also that devices require less electricity to run. LED lights are helping the environment in one crucial way by making it easier to light places using less energy. If this helps reduce the amount of fossil fuels being used then it really has made a major impact on the planet.
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