Ask Eartha Steward
Summit County, CO ColoradoA wonderful way to celebrate the winter solstice, the dimmest day of the year, is with an array of energy efficient light. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are long-lasting, energy- and money-saving, and are now available in a variety of forms. CFL bulbs used to be limited in the type you could get, but recently big and small companies have started manufacturing them for a wide range of fixtures and lamps. CFL bulbs now come in styles from large to small, dimmable to three-way, indoor to outdoor, and more. You can find any type of CFL bulb you need (like the dimmable ones) locally at BigHorn Ace Hardware in Silverthorne. Or if you like shopping on the internet, a favorite website of mine for CFL information, among other environmental topics, is http://www.eartheasy.com.One thing about CFL bulbs is that they can cost anywhere from $3 to $30. But here’s the good part – it’s estimated that you will save $35 to $45 on your energy bill over the life of each bulb. Because CFL bulbs are more of an investment to begin with it comes down to the adage – quality versus quantity? Do you want to keep throwing money down the drain? Or are you willing to throw more money down initially for a CFL bulb and then not have to worry about it for 10 years? Besides lasting 10 years, there are a lot of other reasons to use CFL bulbs. Here’s a staggering statistic from http://www.energystar.gov: “If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR (CFL), we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.” I love CFL bulb’s positive impact on the environment, but the impact on millions of homes’ energy bills is another great reason to use them.If you’re reluctant to try CFL bulbs because you tried using them years ago but didn’t like the flicker or uninviting light they emitted, take another look. With the use of rare earth phosphors, CFL bulbs now come with a warm light and the flicker has gone the way of feathered hair. Along with containing rare earth phosphors, everyone should also be aware of proper disposal of CFL bulbs because they contain a small amount of mercury inside them. CFL bulbs emit light by the excitement of gases within the tube. Mercury is needed to excite the gases. A minuscule amount of mercury is used – about four milligrams (mg), about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Minuscule amount or not, CFL bulbs need to be disposed of at a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection. Since Summit County Recycling’s HHW collection is not starting again until April, Eartha has set up a marked bin for CFL bulbs-only outside the High Country Conservation Center’s office. Be a responsible CFL user and recycle them when you’re done. It’s important to note that CFL bulbs actually prevent mercury from entering the environment. According to the EPA, in order to produce electricity for an incandescent bulb a power plant will emit 10 mg of mercury compared to only 2.4 mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time. And another thing – don’t feel like you have to go out and buy $200 worth of CFL bulbs and replace them all at once. Replacing bulbs gradually still has a positive impact on energy bills and the environment. Remember, if each household replaced just one bulb we could light 2.5 million homes for a year. So how many people does it take to screw in a CFL bulb? Well, I guess it just depends on the people and how willing they are to do it. Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Holly Loff, and Beth Orstad, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.Submit questions to Eartha to email@example.com with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.
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