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Sustainability at Work

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LED lighting: why upgrade?

Get a better looking workplace & reduced energy bills: upgrade to LED lighting

Lighting makes a big difference in how we feel in a shop, restaurant or workplace. Think about it – would you rather walk into a bright, sunlit cafe or a dimly lit conference room with a flickering, buzzing light overhead?

By upgrading your lighting, you can improve employee and customer experience, thereby boosting productivity and sales.

LED lighting has rapidly developed as an excellent lighting option. It produces great quality light with a fraction of the energy use of standard lighting. 


Save money

Lighting systems account for about 1/3 of your workplace energy use. If your current lighting gives off heat, you also may be paying to cool the space.

New LED replacement bulbs on the market can cut your costs by up to 75 percent. LEDs also last a long time, saving you the hassle and cost of replacing burnt-out bulbs.

Plus, in many cases, Energy Trust of Oregon incentives can cover up to half of the eligible project costs. 

What types of lights can LEDs replace?

Track and flood lighting are easy to upgrade to LEDs.

track lighting

Track and flood lighting are common in restaurants, shops, and office conference rooms or hallways.

Overhead tube lighting does have LED options, but the whole light fixture – not just the bulbs – must be replaced. Do not mix regular tubes with LED replacements – this could be hazardous.

Read more about how to properly, and safely, install LED tube lighting.

New limited time instant incentives!

For a limited time during 2014, Energy Trust of Oregon can help you save energy and money with LEDs - a discount of nearly half the original cost!

When you purchase from a distributor participating in the Lighten Up with LEDs promotion, you can apply at order time to have your distributor instantly reduce the purchase price of qualifying LED lamps by the Energy Trust incentive amount.

Questions about where to start, or want free assistance? Contact us, or contact a no-cost Energy Trust lighting specialist of Trade Ally lighting contractor.

For more information, visit Energy Trust’s website on commercial lighting.

Or, click here for a list of participating distributors.

LED lighting: how-to information and free resources

Before upgrading lighting, bring in the (free) experts

When considering any lighting upgrade, we recommend bringing in a no-cost ETO lighting specialist or Trade Ally lighting contractor to consult with early in the process.

light bulb evolution

The evolution of the light bulb. Photograph by Levi Brown.

You’ll get the most out of your upgrade and save yourself the headache. They’ll know what questions to ask, and where to get the information. Things like: 

  • How well new LED technology would work in the existing fixtures.
  • How to reduce the number of fixtures yet still get superior light.
  • Which lights to prioritize replacing first if you’re on a budget.
  • Steps to take to get Energy Trust incentives.

A call to the Energy Trust or a Trade Ally lighting contractor will help you quickly sort out the best lighting for your space. They can study the product literature and take into account the many complexities of lighting systems – from wiring compatibility to lumen output; from the color rendering index to warranties – so that you won’t have to!

Energy Trust

An outside expert can also help with replacing fluorescent lights with LEDs. We especially recommend working with an expert if you want to upgrade overhead tube lighting, as incorrect installation of LED tube lighting can be hazardous. Read more about how to properly, and safely, install LED tube lighting.

Questions about where to start, or want free assistance? Contact us, or contact a no-cost Energy Trust lighting specialist of Trade Ally lighting contractor.


LED lighting: upgrading tube lighting

Use caution when buying 4’ LED replacement tubes

LED light tube products are being sold as easy replacements for your existing fluorescents without having to replace the fixture. However, without the right expertise, you could end up with one or more of the following issues:

  • Increased glare
  • Poor light distribution
  • Light patterns that are distracting to customers and employees (think lighting that casts out in the shape of bat wings instead of a glow)
  • Poor light color
  • Worse efficiency or light output

It’s also very important not to mix fluorescent and LED tubes in the same fixture. In some cases, the bulbs will not only fail, but could be a hazard.

LED light tube

The bottom line is that most fixtures with fluorescent tubes are not designed for LEDs. LED 4’ tubes work best in fixtures designed for LEDs. Work with an outside expert from the Energy Trust or a Trade Ally lighting contractor when switching from fluorescent to LED lights.

For more information on LED lights visit Energy Trust’s website, or visit the Oregon Department of Energy for more energy information for businesses.  For technical details, see these two reports written by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy.

How to clean up a broken fluorescent bulb

If a florescent light bulb breaks, safe cleanup practices are key.

Fluorescent lights are long lasting and when recycled properly, most of the glass, metal and mercury in them can be reused. However, because fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, when a fluorescent bulb breaks, it should be handled as hazardous waste.

Broken fluorescent bulb
Broken florescent bulbs can be a health hazard if not cleaned up properly.

Which bulbs are hazardous & why are they a safety concern?
Fluorescent light bulbs are either linear fluorescent (long skinny tubes) or compact fluorescent (small and sometimes spiraled). Linear fluorescent lights are common in workplaces and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are more common in households. Regardless of the type of fluorescent bulb, it contains mercury and must be treated like hazardous waste if it breaks.

Safe clean up instructions
Be thorough when collecting broken glass and visible powder and keep the mess contained. Clean the area where a fluorescent breaks without vacuuming or sweeping to avoid spreading mercury containing powder and mercury vapor. Do not use cleaning products, as they may react with the mercury.

Whether at home or at work, cleaning up a broken fluorescent bulb is the same.

Materials for cleanupWhat you need

  1. Stiff paper or cardboard
  2. Sticky tape, such as duct tape
  3. Paper towels or baby wipes
  4. A glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag
  5. Best practice: wear gloves and a dust mask


Before cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room – especially children and pregnant women.
  • Air out the room for 10-15 minutes by opening a door or window to the outdoor environment before starting to clean.
  • Shut off the HVAC system if you have one.
  • Remove jewelry before cleaning; mercury can attach to gold or silver.

During cleanup

  • Use stiff paper or cardboard to scoop up glass fragments and powder.
  • Use sticky tape to pick up remaining small glass fragments and powder

Using tape to pick up small fragments
Sticky tape captures small fragments and powder.

  • If cleaning a hard surface, wipe the area with a damp paper towel or disposable baby wipe.
  • Place all bulb fragments, powder, and cleanup materials (stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, paper towels or disposable baby wipes, gloves and dust mask) in the glass jar or plastic bag.

Bulb fragments in plastic bag  Bulb fragments in glass jar
Bulb fragments and cleanup materials should be placed in a sealed plastic bag or glass jar, and taken to a hazardous waste facility.

After cleanup

  • If powder got on your clothing, dispose of your clothing in the same way as other materials used to clean up the break. Laundering clothing that comes into contact with the powder can contaminate the washing machine and water flowing into the sewer system with mercury.
  • Continue to air out the room where the bulb broke for at least 12 hours and keep HVAC shut off.
  • If the bulb broke on carpet, periodically ventilate the room with open windows and doors because mercury vapors can be released from the carpet into the room.
  • Label the container and place it outdoors or in a protected area until it can be properly disposed of.
  • Take the sealed container to a hazardous waste facility or collection event that can properly deal with hazardous waste. Call 503-234-3000 for help locating the nearest facility or collection event.

Quick links and additional information

Guest post written by Mia Reback, Sustainability at Work intern.

EcoChallenge 2014

Northwest Earth Institute hosts the annual challenge October 15-30 to help people discover change, together.

The Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge is a great way to engage your workplace around sustainability – it’s no wonder 5,000 people and businesses have taken the challenge!

It’s a great way to build enthusiasm for workplace sustainability and to kickstart or strengthen sustainability initiatives. Your challenge can take place outside of work and still contribute to your workplace team.


When: October 15-30
What: Choose an action to take, at home or at work, for two weeks.
How: Create a team – even if it’s just two people! – and register.
Why: Build team spirit, win prizes, and get into new (good) habits!

Example Challenges
The EcoChallenge website has example challenges from six different categories to help you find a challenge that works for you. Or, if you want ideas for work, read over our certification checklists for office, restaurant, retail and grocery.

  • Water Conservation: Check for leaks: dripping faucets can waste 20 gallons of water per day.
  • Energy Efficiency: Replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs.
  • Sustainable Food Options: Don’t eat food that comes in disposable containers – including coffee cups.
  • Alternative Transportation: Take the 2 mile challenge – bike or walk for any trips shorter than 2 miles.
  • Trash Reduction: set up or improve recycling in your workplace. We can help! Visit our website or contact a sustainability advisor to learn more.
  • Or, choose your own!

How to participate:

  1. Choose your EcoChallenge action. Start by browsing through the example challenges.
  2. Register for EcoChallenge – Sign up or reactivate your account from last year.
  3. Connect with your team – To start your workplace team, select “start a team” and NWEI will help you invite coworkers to join. Or, select “join a team” to join an existing team. You can participate in the EcoChallenge alone, but part of the fun is getting to know your coworkers and supporting each other.
  4. Create your EcoChallenge profile page – your online profile will help you keep track of your goals and make the challenge more successful.
  5. Make a plan to achieve your EcoChallenge – Think through what you’ll need to take your new action – if you need to prepare anything, get it ready now so it’s easy from day one!
  6. Share your participation far and wide. Let family, friends, and coworkers know what you’re doing and invite them to join!
  7. On October 15, start working on your challenge goals and log in daily to chart your progress.

Did you know you can compete against another team? Team captains can challenge another team, and the team with the greatest number of EcoChallenge points wins. Do you share a building with other businesses? Get to know your neighbors through some friendly competition.

Are you up for the challenge? Sign up today at


About NWEI
Based in Portland, Oregon, NWEI is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire people to take responsibility for Earth. They believe the solution to many of Earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change. The EcoChallenge is an annual event to help people kick-start change and make smalls steps that lead to big changes for our planet.

Quick Links:

Guest post written by Mia Reback, Sustainability at Work intern.