Can CFLs really change the world?

Topping practically every eco-friendly to-do list is the suggestion to change from regular lightbulbs to compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) in your home and office. In my desperate attempt to green-up our family and walk a little more gently on the earth, I did just that. I started forking out the extra money at Lowe’s (roughly $3 per bulb, compared to $.30 per bulb for regular lights) to purchase compact fluorescent “swirl” lights for every socket in our home. I felt pretty good about this, but in the back of my head I wondered “really, is this making much of a difference? Could something so simple change the world?”

Then a friend sent this article from FastCompany, and I’m feeling like a freakin’ environmental hero! The following stats should have you running, not walking, to the store to buy up these bulbs:

“Compact fluorescents emit the same light as classic incandescents but use 75% or 80% less electricity.

What that means is that if every one of 110 million American households bought just one ice-cream-cone bulb, took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. One bulb swapped out, enough electricity saved to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island. In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.

That’s the law of large numbers–a small action, multiplied by 110 million.

The single greatest source of greenhouse gases in the United States is power plants–half our electricity comes from coal plants. One bulb swapped out: enough electricity saved to turn off two entire power plants–or skip building the next two.

Just one swirl per home. The typical U.S. house has between 50 and 100 “sockets” (astonish yourself: Go count the bulbs in your house). So what if we all bought and installed two ice-cream-cone bulbs? Five? Fifteen?”

Says David Goldstein, a PhD physicist, MacArthur “genius” fellow, and senior energy scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council: “This could be just what the world’s been waiting for, for the last 20 years.”

–FastCompany, September 2006

Oprah’s on board, using and promoting CFL’s, and you know Al Gore wants you to buy them. Hell, Leonardo DiCaprio makes them look downright sexy. Even WalMart is pricing them low to encourage everyone to make the switch. All of the “cool” kids are doing it. What are you waiting for?

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6 Responses to Can CFLs really change the world?

  1. Mary says:

    Wow… thanks for the info and the little kick in the butt that I so desperately needed. We have CFLs in a few of our lights as I’ve been slowly but surely switching them over. Guess I need to get myself out to Lowe’s (isn’t that store great?) and pick up several more so I too can be an environmental hero!

  2. Kim says:

    Hi there:
    I’ve been reading your site since mid-January when I came across it after I googled — of all things — “how to glue on Barbie shoes”. I’m a mother of three in Vancouver, Canada, and share your views on curbing my unconscious habit of consumerism. What prompted me to finally write in, instead of continuing to lurk in obscurity, is that while I love the idea of energy-saving CFLs (btw, in Canada that also stands for the Canadian Football League), I can’t stand the white, cold light they emit as compared to the warm glow of the energy-sucking old-fashioned blubs. I’m torn between doing what’s right for the environment and doing what’s right for the ambience in my house. I hope that doesn’t sound too shallow???

  3. perr1ker5h says:

    Hi Kim,
    First, I have to ask, did you glue on the Barbie shoes? I’ve found that is THE best way to keep those little boogers from getting sucked up in a vacuum cleaner.

    Now, about the bulbs. Have you purchased any recently? I have found that they’re MUCH better than they used to be even a year or so ago. I typically purchase the equivalent of a 60 or 75 watt bulb. There is still a little hesitation when you first switch the light on, but the actual light isn’t so cold and white-out white anymore. Perhaps if you try some of the newer ones you’ll find them to be less harsh. Or you could compromise and use CFLs in places where the quality of the light isn’t quite as important. Just a thought! Thanks for reading my blog.

  4. Kim says:

    Hi Perri:
    Actually, about the Barbie shoes, I wanted to glue them on so that they didn’t get lodged in my 10-month old’s windpipe. So I tried regular ol’ white glue — didn’t work. I also tried Crazy Glue — also didn’t work. For now, we’ve got barefoot Ballerina Barbies until I ask my mother-in-law if I can borrow her glue gun. Do you know what kind of glue actually works best?

    Thanks for the tip about the blubs. I might give them a shot again — but I wonder, if they can send folks into space, why can’t they just make a CFL with warm light? I can’t be the only one with an aversion to cold, white light.

    Cheers, Kim

  5. Mary says:

    I actually love the light from the CFLs. Oh and great idea to compromise and use the CFLs where the quality isn’t as important!

  6. She-Ra says:

    Hmm… maybe I need to add lightbulbs to my list. I’m headed to Target today though I don’t know if I should be saying that here on your awesome blog about not shopping so much! 🙂

    I’ve enjoyed reading. Keep it up!

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