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Open AccessArticle

The LED Paradox: How Light Pollution Challenges Experts to Reconsider Sustainable Lighting

1
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research—UFZ, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
2
School of Planning-Building-Environment, Technische Universität Berlin, 10623 Berlin, Germany
3
Studio Dannemann, 12435 Berlin, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 6160; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216160
Received: 1 October 2019 / Revised: 31 October 2019 / Accepted: 1 November 2019 / Published: 4 November 2019
In the 21st century, the notion of “sustainable lighting” is closely associated with LED technology. In the past ten years, municipalities and private light users worldwide have installed light-emitting diodes in urban spaces and public streets to save energy. Yet an increasing body of interdisciplinary research suggests that supposedly sustainable LED installations are in fact unsustainable, because they increase light pollution. Paradoxically, blue-rich cool-white LED lighting, which is the most energy-efficient, also appears to be the most ecologically unfriendly. Biologists, physicians and ecologists warn that blue-rich LED light disturbs the circadian day-and-night rhythm of living organisms, including humans, with potential negative health effects on individual species and whole ecosystems. Can the paradox be solved? This paper explores this question based on our transdisciplinary research project Light Pollution—A Global Discussion. It reveals how light pollution experts and lighting professionals see the challenges and potential of LED lighting from their different viewpoints. This expert feedback shows that “sustainable LED lighting” goes far beyond energy efficiency as it raises complex design issues that imply stakeholder negotiation. It also suggests that the LED paradox may be solved in context, but hardly in principle. View Full-Text
Keywords: sustainable lighting; light-emitting diodes (LEDs); innovation; artificial light at night (ALAN); outdoor lighting; light pollution sustainable lighting; light-emitting diodes (LEDs); innovation; artificial light at night (ALAN); outdoor lighting; light pollution
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Schulte-Römer, N.; Meier, J.; Söding, M.; Dannemann, E. The LED Paradox: How Light Pollution Challenges Experts to Reconsider Sustainable Lighting. Sustainability 2019, 11, 6160.

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