The Color of Money

Best Lights Are Green

It’s possible to save money while saving the environment — that’s the message the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is promoting through its innovative Green Lights program.

By encouraging U.S. corporations to install state-of-the-art lighting in their facilities, the EPA is promoting both energy efficiency and pollution prevention. Companies that join the program will profit by lowering their energy bills and improving lighting quality. As a byproduct, these companies also will help reduce the air pollution caused in the generation of electricity.

sustainable cities and climate change

Lighting consumes nearly 25 percent of the electricity used each year in the United States. And commercial and industrial lighting represents 80 to 90 percent of that electrical demand.

By installing “green lighting,” companies can reduce the electrical power required for their lighting systems by 50 to 75 percent, said Maria Tikoff, manager of the Green Lights program for the California EPA. This in turn reduces the amount of pollution produced at power plants.

“One of the misunderstandings we need to overcome is that energy efficiency means a sacrifice of some sort,” Tikoff said. “When it comes to lighting, that’s just not the case. In most instances, the quality of lighting is improved.”

Since the voluntary Green Lights program started last January, more than 125 corporations and five state governments have joined the effort. This means more than one billion square feet of building space has already been dedicated to energy efficient lighting, she said.

Under the program, participants sign an agreement committing their organization to survey all of its facilities and install new lighting systems that maximize energy savings and do not compromise lighting quality.

To simplify the process, the EPA has a computer program to help participants quickly survey their lighting systems. The program assesses various options and can even make final recommendations. The EPA also offers product information and can help organizations find grants or low-interest loans for the new lighting.

California was the first state government to join the Green Lights program. The state estimates that by installing “green lighting” in its buildings, taxpayers eventually will save $255 million in annual energy costs, Tikoff said.

Along with the monetary savings, the new lights also will keep more than two billion pounds of carbon dioxide, two million pounds of sulfur dioxide and six million pounds of nitrogen oxide out of California’s air.

Not a bad gain for changing a few light bulbs.

Earth Tip: One compact fluorescent light bulb can last as long as 13 incandescent bulbs, while saving about $57 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

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