“With the exception of some high-flying migrant species, nature doesn't commute to work.” - Janine Benyus, Biomimicry

Aquinas College



Three sub-compact fluorescent coil light bulbs
Photo by the DOE (NREL PIX #06244)

Lighting directly affects our economy. "As a nation, we spend about one-quarter of our electricity budget on lighting, or more than $37 billion annually. Yet much of this expense is unnecessary. Technologies developed during the past 10 years can help us cut lighting costs 30% to 60% while enhancing lighting quality and reducing environmental impacts" (U.S. DOE).

Compact Fluorescent light bulbs can now be purchased from nearly any hardware store and come in a variety of models. They generally have a higher cost per bulb, but last 4 to 10 times longer and use up to 75% less energy to produce the same amount of light. The light bulb has the added convenience of being used in a traditional incandescent light fixture. The technology is changing everyday to increase efficiency and decrease the mercury component of the bulbs. (Philips has a low-mercury compact fluorescent available on the market today.) The bulbs decrease operating cost through reduced energy consumption, less labor cost in replacing bulbs, and a possible decrease in dumpster size and expense associated with disposing of bulbs.

LED (light emitting diode) lighting is another emerging technology in this industry. "Basically, LEDs are just tiny light bulbs that fit easily into an electrical circuit. But unlike ordinary incandescent bulbs, they don't have a filament that will burn out, and they don't get especially hot. They are illuminated solely by the movement of electrons in a semiconductor material, and they last just as long as a standard transistor." (How Stuff Works.com) The conductor material used in LED's is typically aluminum-gallium-arsenide (AlGaAs) and this is where the problem comes in. Gallium is a rare element, meaning there is a very limited amount available on earth. However, they do save a lot of money in the long run through reduced energy consumption, no labor cost in replacing bulbs, and a decrease in expense associated with disposing of bulbs.

Site selection and building orientation can allow natural light to filter into internal spaces, thereby decreasing the need for artificial lighting. Incorporating south-facing windows and sky lights will allow sunlight to enter rooms for much of the work day, potentially saving thousands of dollars in electricity every year. Up-front investments like those previous listed often enhance long-term profitability, decrease environmental footprints, and provide a better workspace or living space for people.

Through the combination of new technology and the decreased reliance on artificial lighting in buildings, we will hopefully achieve sustainability in this area.


A Simple Switch

"A simple act, like switching to an energy saving lamp, can have a powerful impact on our efforts to stem global warming." This site empowers people to make a difference in the world by taking action and making the switch.

All Tech Energy

All Tech Energy's web site provides energy management resources and solutions to businesses, including information on building automation controls, lighting retrofits, tax incentives, and a savings calculator.


While much of the information on this site is technical and advanced, it is a great source for users who already know the basics of this technology. The research group of E. Fred Schubert at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute maintains this web site.

Funded by the Steelcase Foundation of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Header photo by Carol Y. Swinehart, courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant Extension
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