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Scenic La Crosse

Keeping God's Country Beautiful

Environmental Impact: Energy, Waste, Light, Aesthetics

Greg Young, a Philadelphia architect, determined that a digital sign can use as much as 323,773 kilowatt-hours a year. That’s about 46 times the power use of a typical billboard lit by four halide lamps, he said. It’s almost 30 times the energy used by the average U.S. home.

       - “Power Slurping Signs” by Sandy Bauer, Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 March, 2011

La Crosse & La Crosse County Become Eco-Municipalities

In 2007 both the La Crosse Common Council and La Crosse County Board of Supervisors adopted resolutions endorsing The Natural Step model (eco-municipality) for sustainable community development and established the Joint Oversight Committee on Sustainability. The following Vision Statement was compiled by the committee to guide the Strategic Plan for Sustainability and its subsequent implementation:

As governing bodies of the City and County of La Crosse, we recognize a shared collaborative responsibility to lead our organizations in accordance with the principles of sustainability. Using The Natural Step framework as our guide, we will work toward effective, affordable, sustainable government operations that meet the needs of the present while minimizing our negative impact on future generations. We will strive to lead by example and, whenever possible, support citizens, businesses and organizations in our community that are interested in adopting sustainable practices.

Environmental Impact Related To Digital Billboards

Facts from Scenic America Website www.scenic.org and Bauer, Sandy. “Power Slurping Signs.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 March, 2011


• One digital billboard consumes 397,486 kWh/year

• One digital billboard = 108.41 tons/year of carbon dioxide

• Standard size digital billboard contains 449,280 light-emitting diodes

• Brightest objects in the landscape

• The LED lights create so much heat that the billboards need to be air conditioned

• A digital sign can use about 46 times the power of a typical billboard and 30 times the average home

• Digital media technology uses significant amounts of energy from coal fired power plants which are making a
significant contribution to global warming


• Digital signage does generate more waste to be recycled than the paper, vinyl sheets, and plywood or canvas
facing of static billboards

• Obsolete technology is a valuable source for secondary raw materials, if treated properly; if not treated properly; it
can be a source of toxins and carcinogens

• Digital billboards will need to be replaced roughly every 11 years, as opposed to 15 years for static billboards

• Invisible embodies energy or "grey energy" used to manufacture digital technologies and the toxic e-waste
associated with electronics are largely out of sight and out of mind, but their impacts can be profound


• Signs become brightest objects in the landscape, dominating and change the fundamental character of the place

• Distraction from other visual /scenic qualities

• 500’ or even 1000’ separation from neighborhoods is not enough to prevent light pollution

• The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found digital billboards to be 10X brighter than the surrounding area,
and 3X brighter than a traditional billboard.

• On-premise digital displays with motion can be particularly garish

• Clash with historic or established architectural elements, even at great distances

National Geographic Today April 17, 2003

Light pollution—the luminous orange glow that haloes cities and suburbs—threatens wildlife by disrupting biological rhythms and otherwise interfering with the behavior of nocturnal animals, new research shows. Now a movement is under way to turn off the lights, or at least turn them down, for the sake of all creatures that frequent the night.

The Basics Of Digital Signage And Energy Consumption By Gregory Young

LED units generate heat, and cannot function well in heat, which reduces the unit's life expectancy. As a result of the tremendous amount of heat generated in LEDs , and the additional impact of hot weather on the signs, an air conditioning unit is incorporated to cool the components. The energy drawn from the grid is highest during the summer months when the heat from the sun coupled with the heat generated by the higher brightness of the LED unit requires increased demand on the air conditioning system installed for cooling the LED unit.

LED air conditioners or darken signs during periods of high demand. If traditional billboards continue to be replaced by LED signs, the growing draw of energy during peak hours could negate the efforts of Utility companies to reduce demand during peak times.

Materiality And Recyclability Of Digital Signs By Gregory Young

Obsolete technology is a valuable source for secondary raw materials, if treated properly; if not treated properly, it can be a source of toxins and carcinogens. Rapid industrial advancement, decreasing initial cost, and even planned obsolescence could result in a fast-growing surplus of “techno-waste” (Morgan, 2006). LED’s, plasma and LCD screens, and digital players and extenders are recyclable, but their de-manufacturing and reuse is not always mandated or monitored.

NOTE: You can PRINT a leaflet version of the information on this page by clicking here to obtain the file (pdf).