Eco Friendly Lighting Design
Even something as seemingly small as your choice of landscape lighting makes a big difference in sustainable landscape design. Let’s shed some light on the subject.
Types of Lighting
There are multiple types of outdoor lighting, ranging from high and low pressure sodium lighting (often used for street lights and lighting larger areas) to incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), and LED lighting. Of these, Breaking Ground finds LEDs a terrific choice for eco friendly outdoor lighting; their ratio of wattage to lumens (light output) is better than anything else that’s commercially available. They also last longer (up to 100,000 hours), while their manufacture and disposal create fewer toxins than other types of bulbs.
Having considered the type of light you’ll use, it also helps to think over what you’re lighting for. If you only need enough visibility to see your front walkway, to outline your patio, or to illuminate the area around your pool, it’s likely you need less light than you need. Besides the human benefits, the local wildlife will thank you; the International Darksky Association reminds us that bright lights disrupt animals’ circadian rhythms in much the same way they’d disrupt humans’, and they can also interfere with birds’ flight patterns, as well as the activities of certain nocturnal predators and their prey. Low-intensity lighting is ecologically considerate in more ways than one!
A growing body of research suggests that blue light can be harmful to vision and health. Light with a lower color temperature will have a slight orange hue that is gentler on your eyes than higher color temperatures that tend toward the blue end of the spectrum. Anything that’s daylight balanced (between 4,500 and 5,500 Kelvin) or lower is better than the intense blues common to some outdoor lighting (which can be as much as 10-12,000 Kelvin), though you may wish to use a cooler color temperature or a bold color like green or purple for certain accents.
Because LED lighting uses much less power than CFLs, incandescents, and other traditional types of outdoor lighting, it’s often possible to run path lighting and many accent lights using electricity from photovoltaic cells. Depending on the layout of your yard and the rest of your landscaping, it may even be possible to work a solar panel into your outdoor decor.
Depending on the type and number of lights you’re using, solar may not be practical. In that case, using power from the mains will be your best option. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t still green your lighting. Even a simple control system like a timer will help to save energy. On the other hand, if you have a smart home, connecting your lighting to the system can help you monitor your energy usage and be smarter about your power consumption.
There are many sustainable approaches to landscaping, and sometimes the smallest choices can have an impact in unexpected ways. Just as a pebble thrown in a lake doesn’t have to make a big splash for the ripples to reach the shoreline, even small efforts at sustainability — the use of native plants, locally-sourced materials, and ecologically-conscious lighting — can make a significant difference. If you live in the Omaha area, contact Breaking Ground for help designing a landscape that is Earth-friendly and welcoming!