Banning the Bulb and Other Thoughts on Going Green

Just today I was joking with Lauren that the US should making it illegal to use traditional incandescent light bulbs given our current knowledge of the environmental and monetary savings associated with using compact florescent (CFL) bulbs. Well, ironically, agrees with me for good reason (thought they beat me to the punch by a few days)!

Treehugger mentioned that a number of forward thinking states, cities, and companies (take Google and Cambridge, Mass as examples) are in the process of leading the way to by example. One Senator from California is even trying to help pass a rather comically named bill: “How Many Legislators Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb Act.”

There are some down sides to using CFL bulbs; mainly they are currently produced with VERY small amounts of mercury. But, as an NPR Science Friday discussion from a few weeks back pointed out, the amount of mercury put into the air through coal burning power plants far outweighs the amount of put off by using one CFL bulb taking into account the energy savings through using the more efficient bulbs.

The next step, possibly, will be to go from CFL to LED technology in homes. They currently use the same current as CFL bulbs, but last longer and don’t have any mercury in them. Unfortunately, they also require circuit boards to control them, which makes them a tad more expensive. One though proposed in the NPR Science Friday discussion mentioned above is that homes be retrofitted with the circuitry by default and you only replace the actual LED bulbs to save cost and part counts.

Taking this whole going green a step further, there are other things that the average Joe/Jane can do in their every day life that will save noticeable amounts of money with little upfront cost. This include installing better insulation in homes, checking tire pressure on cars (under pressure uses more gas, and overpressure is dangerous), not accelerating as fast as they typically do and keeping to around 65 MPH on the highway, installing a solar water heater, riding your bike to work, turning off lights/computers/TVs when not being used (turning off the power strip they are attached to saves even more because many have circuits that are always running and consuming power), and the list can go on and on and even be the whole topic of an entire blog.

Though more costly, there are other solutions that should be considered as well: installing better, double-pane, windows is one of the best things you can do to save energy in an older home, installing small wind and/or solar power generation stations at home to supplement times of high energy use, buying a hybrid car (the more people that buy them now, the less costly they will become, especially when Toyota wants to go 100% hybrid by 2020 and produce hybrid diesels by 2010), and even custom designed homes to maximize the use of the sun’s heat energy and light throughout the day.

Ah… but all it takes is money and the world would be green again… until I can afford some of the ideas I want to implement, I’m going to have to stick with limiting my driving habits, lowering my home energy use with the electronics I currently have, and replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs. At least it’s better than ignoring the problems that we will have to deal with in the future.



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