View of the sky looking up through tree branches, with a modern glass building in the foreground.

The lighting industry has traditionally addressed sustainability through energy conservation, use of recycled materials, or reduction of light pollution. Recently, these approaches have broadened to consider the reduction of materials used, embodied carbon, circular design approaches, and life cycle assessments (LCAs) as well as social impacts, energy equity, and environmental justice. Legislative and market drivers support increased use of environmental product declarations (EPDs), which disclose embodied life cycle impacts of products and materials.

Currently, lighting and many other mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) products lack EPDs, which are necessary to conduct whole building LCAs to minimize both embodied and operational carbon and other impacts. Lighting and MEP products are distinct among other building materials in that the lighting and electrical industries have historically seen great sustainability successes through efficacy and efficiency improvements. Thus, adoption of other sustainability approaches, such as the use of LCAs, has been slower, creating a gap in EPD availability for lighting and MEP products.

To address this gap, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are collaborating with LCA experts and several lighting manufacturers to develop strategies and tools for data-driven sustainability and life cycle analysis. For example, PNNL has developed a life cycle inventory (LCI) template that streamlines and simplifies the LCA process and improves comparability, transparency, and options for open access. The template is currently in beta testing with an anticipated public release in early 2024.


The new L-Prize® competition, launched in 2021, is designed to unlock the full potential of LED technology—to combine high luminaire efficacy with exceptional lighting quality, data-driven control and functionality, and sustainable design and construction for the future of illumination in commercial buildings. Throughout the competition, entrants can earn points for innovations that support positive environmental impacts, such as improved product circularity, end-of-life outcomes, reductions in use and extraction of harmful materials, or improved material transparency. The L-Prize presents a golden opportunity for competitors to integrate sustainability into their approach to maximize points and have a positive social and environmental impact at the same time.