Want to Change the World? Start with a Light.

CFLToday is the 8th annual national ENERGY STAR Change a Light Day. Now, I realize that if you’re a regular reader of Sustainablog, you’ve probably already changed out many of the lightbulbs in your house from traditional bulbs to CFL’s. But keep reading, because you know many people who haven’t done so yet.

ENERGY STAR Change a Light Day recognizes the more than 1.8 million Americans (like me) who have already pledged to change at least one light in their homes to an ENERGY STAR qualified light. The “Change the World” pledge encourages “all Americans to join with millions of others and take small, individual steps that make a big difference in the fight against global warming.”

How big of a difference? Take look at these statistics provided by EPA:

  • Replacing just one traditional incandescent bulb with one ENERGY STAR qualified Compact Fluorescen Light (CFL) can prevent 450 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime – the equivalent of more than 200 pounds of coal from being burned. Change two lights and you double those statistics. Change three and … well you know where this is going.
  • If all of the 1.8 million Americans who have pledged to change at least one light actually does so, it will prevent 3 Billion pounds of greenhouse gases.
  • If every household in America took part in the pledge, collectively they could save more than 110 Billion kilowatt hours of electricity, more than $18 Billion in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases eqivalent to the emissions from more than 18 million cars.

If you haven’t taken the pledge yet, what are you waiting for? Take the pledge. Change a bulb. If you have, spread the word. Feel free to e-mail this blog post to all of your friends and families. Show them the statistics and encourage them to take the pledge and change a bulb, too.

And, make sure you tell them this – It’s a great way for them to save on their energy costs. With energy costs on the rise, this may be the one statistic that gets people to take this action:

  • Each CFL can save about $30 or more in electricity costs over its lifetime. Multiply that by the number of lights in a house, and it can add up to significant savings.

It’s easy to take the pledge. Click here and get to work.

  1. Rebecca

    Just wanted to share that an Energy Star light just went out recently. Flipped on the switch, and, poof!, it was gone. I did not put it in myself, the former houseowner did, and, he wrote the date on the base 4/14/04. It lasted 4 1/2 years. So, if you’re still on the fence due to cost, please note another reason: they far outlast incandescent lightbulbs too.

  2. Bobby B.

    This again? Really, taking a pledge to make this particular switch really is pointless. The Mercury laced CFL’s have already been mandated by the federal government via 2007 energy legislation. In 2012, you will no longer be able to purchase Edison’s incandescent wonder. Your gestapo-enforced first option will be the CFL, which believe it or not will still screw into an “Edison base”. Hopefully, the Mercury bulb recycling centers will be on every street corner by then. Just think of the EPA fines those businesses will have to absorb.

    If you want to start a revolution, maybe you should look beyond the dim, blue light of the CFL. LED’s use even less power and last even longer. Of course, they cost about 4000% more than an incandescent, but hey, we’re talking about saving the planet. Why take a CFL half-step when you can take a flying leap with an LED?

  3. Barbara B

    The desire to save energy is laudable but I still have great concerns about switching to CFLs. I agree with Bobby B about the risks of mercury laced CFLs. Here’s an editorial I wrote for the local newspaper:

    Back in 2001, some 8.4 million compact fluorescent light bulbs were distributed in the Northwest, spearheading the campaign to get the public to switch from incandescent bulbs to the more energy efficient CFLs.

    Right now, according to Portland General Electric, those bulbs are reaching the end of their lifespan and burning out. But replacing them isn’t as easy as just tossing out the old and screwing in the new.

    CFL bulbs contain mercury, a powerful neurotoxin which poses serious health risks, especially for children. Already, researchers have linked mercury toxicity to birth defects, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, depression, bipolar disorder and other conditions.

    We’re told the amount of mercury in one bulb is so small that we needn’t worry about it, but studies by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and Brown University in 2008 confirmed that the amount of mercury released by a broken CFL bulb greatly exceeds EPA safety standards

    The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website admits that, “Today’s CFLs underscore mercury’s volatile vapor form, which is still a significant health concern – ventilation reduces but does not eliminate this toxicant. Mercury vapor inhalation can cause significant neural damage in developing fetuses and children.”

    Still think CFLs pose no risk? Read the EPA’s instructions on what to do if one breaks. First, evacuate children and pets from the area. Then, ventilate the room for 15 minutes, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system to keep the fumes from circulating through the house, carefully scoop up the pieces with cardboard or duct tape, and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag! Whatever you do, don’t use a vacuum or broom!

    Here’s what the EPA says to do if the broken glass of mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb comine in direct contact with clothing or bedding: “the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.”

    Broken bulbs, in short, have to be treated as toxic waste and are so potentially harmful that some states have made it against the law to put them in with the trash.

    That’s just one bulb. Can you imagine what will happen when a good portion of those 8.4 million CFLs make their way to the landfill?

    True, people are warned not to put the bulbs into the trash, but it’s estimated that only 3% of all CFLs are properly disposed of. I doubt if our area residents will do much better. The only “official” recycling center for our area is the Salem-Keizer Transfer Station east of Salem out on Deer Park Rd. That’s more than 20 miles driving for some of us — and the Station will only accept 10 bulbs at a time. We’re told to wait until we have 10 before making the trip — but few of us are going to want to store a boxful of burnt-out toxic bulbs in our home, especially if we have children.

    Luckily, both our Home Depot stores now have a CFL recycling program, but how many people know about it?

    I know I’ll sound like an alarmist, but we have a ticking bomb in our back yards. In fact, we have 8.1 million of them. If I had my way, I’d halt production and sale of CFLs until a safer alternative, like LED bulbs, was ready for market, or at least until we have in place adequate disposal sites and procedures.

    That’s not going to happen, so our state, county and cities must work quickly with major retailers like Wal-mart (the number one proponent and seller of CFL bulbs) to establish safe and convenient recycling centers. We’re not going to completely stop the flow of mercury into our soil and water, but at least we can reduce it to a smaller stream.

  4. Bobby B.

    I’m not worried. I have a small stockpile of incandesents and believe that LED’s will be more competitively priced by 2012.

    Following Justin’s movie theme, maybe a reincarnated Rod Serling could produce “The Dim Blue Twilight of the CFL Zone”. Or maybe the EPA could produce some short films like the Department of Defense did during World War II. Titles like “How to Safely Evacuate Your Home After Breaking a CFL”, “Open The Windows, Leave The House, And Return In Two Weeks”, “Don’t Touch That Vacuum – Cleaning Floors After Dropping A CFL”, “Rules For Homeowners To Report Hazardous Spills”, or “Why Is There Barricade Tape Surrounding The Recycling Plant?” might be appropriate.

    Moving to the classroom, history and science textbook revisionists could finally remove Edison from his pedestal with chapters like “Edison – Father of Global Warming” or “Edison Should Have Left Us In The Dark” or “Thanks For The Phonograph But Damn You For The Apocalypse”.

    The future promises to be entertaining.

  5. Robin

    I love it when we can have differences of opinion around here but still be respectful. Thanks for all your thoughtful and funny comments.

    I do think that there is enough information available to people at this point that those who are choosing to throw out CFL’s instead of disposing of them properly are mostly lazy, not uninformed. There will always be a percentage of the population who just throw everything in the trash even when the recycling options are very convenient. I don’t know what to do about that.

  6. Bobby B.

    The recycling options in my area are virtually NON-EXISTENT, which I consider the ultimate INCONVENIENT TRUTH. The government has mandated that we use these things and has provided no provision for their proper disposal. The individual should not be expected to provide funding and transportation to recycle or dispose of something that was forced upon him by goose-steppers who cowtow to well-funded special interest groups. No one bothered to ask the majority of the population if it even wanted to ban one of the greatest inventions in history.

    And finally, if this mandated switch to CFL’s actually reversed the fantasy known as anthropogenic (man-made) globabl warming, it still will not pacify the greens. There is always another boogey man on the green radar and there always will be; at least, until this land becomes the U.S.S.A.

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