Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Green Living Challenge #7: Making the Move to CFLs

The Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment Green Living Challenge deadline is coming up tomorrow, but I can grab another 5 points for something that's already been saving me money:

Change the most frequently used light bulbs in your residence to compact fluorescent (up to 5 bulbs with one point per bulb).

Switching to CFLs is one of several things I did this spring that helped cut my power bill by 10%. While CFLs won't stop global warming by themselves, they can help reduce our national power usage, hence our greenhouse gas emissions.

CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, so they need to be recycled. But CFLs actually involve less total mercury use than incandescent bulbs. Why? Because the majority of our national power comes from coal. The coal burned to provide the extra juice incandescents require will actually put more mercury into the atmosphere than is contained in a CFL. This graph explains it best.

Even though they'll save you up to $30 on your power bill over a 10-year lifespan, CFLs can still be shockingly hard to find. The Harris Teeter near me on Glebe Road doesn't stock even one CFL. Even when the return on investment is so immediate and enormous, old habits can be hard to break.

Should American ban incandescents like Australia recently did? I think so. Consumers save money, we slightly ease demand on our national power grid, and we slightly cut our national greenhouse gas emissions. What would be the downside?

Points for this action: 5
Total points to date: 90
Points needed to complete Green Living Challenge: 100

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