What I feel like telling you about today is the great place I get our low-energy compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and how you can get them there, too. But first, in case you’ve somehow missed the recent coverage (see here and here, for example), I’m going to shed some light on the subject (oh, the fun of the pun).
CFLs, according the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star website, use only 10-30% of an incandescent bulb’s power, last 10 times longer, and save an average $30 in electricity over their lifetime. If every American household replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL, we’d prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to nearly 800,000 cars.
The CFLs I have look like a clown made a balloon sculpture from a long skinny fluorescent bulb and mangled it into a coiled snake. There are others that look like regular bulbs. Whatever they look like, they fit into your normal bulb sockets, and you can buy them at a number of “color temperatures,” so they cast a warm light that looks like a regular bulb’s, not fluorescent looking at all.
The slight downside to CFLs is that they each contain about 5 mg of mercury, a toxic metal (see the EPA fact sheet on proper CFL disposal). You shouldn’t handle the glass with your bare hands if you break them, and when the bulbs burn out, you should dispose of them through your local household hazardous waste collection site (find yours here). That way the mercury will be reclaimed so it won’t harm the environment.
Now for the cool place to get them.
Of course, you could just get them in Wallmart, which announced a huge push to convert their customers to CFLs. But I like getting mine from the “CFL Tipping Point” project of Solar One, New York’s green energy, arts and education center. CFL Tipping Point is an educational project where kids from Manhattan Comprehensive High School have created a “mini-business” with the goal of converting consumers to CFLs by offering them for sale at events, fairs, markets and even by home delivery.
I love the project because it is community building, the kids get to learn about various green technologies, and part of the proceeds from every bulb goes to a charity that brings solar power to villages in the developing world (the Solar Electric Light Fund). Bringing electric light to villages is hugely important for increasing literacy rates in children by allowing them to study at night.
To get CFL Tipping Point bulbs, you have to contact the project leader, Chris Neidl, by email. And if you don’t live in New York, you can still buy your bulbs at Wallmart or somewhere else, and go here to give to the Solar Electric Light Fund or here to give to Solar One directly (in fact, if you let me know, I’ll match the first gift for $100 to either one). PS Anyone else got any CFL tips or ideas or cool places to get them?
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.