Friday, August 14, 2009

Keep the Change

Yesterday a young woman knocked on my door and handed me a small box containing a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). She instructed me to immediately replace some other light bulb with this one, and to make sure that, when this bulb burned out in 5 to 7 years, I'd recycle it properly.

Proper recycling of these bulbs (which contain a small amount of mercury) requires me to leave my home and drive my car to an approved dropoff location. Sounds like, in some effort to be green, Peter is being robbed to pay Paul.

For the record, we have many light fixtures in our home that contain CFLs. I'm ready to rip them out of the dining-room light right now, because they take so long to light up that you have to remember to turn on the dining-room light 20 minutes before dinner if you want to be able to see what you're eating. In the ceiling-mount fixtures, the CFLs last only about two times longer than regular incandescent bulbs--but the cost per bulb is ten times higher. When my incandescent bulbs burn out, they just stop working. When some CFLs burn out, they can "emit smoke and a melting, plastic-like odor." Yeah, I want that in my house. (Maybe that's why they recommend on the box that you use this bulb for your porch light!)

Naturally, on the side of the box, there was one of those dubious "green statistics" that follows this pattern:
If every ________ did ____________ just __________ time(s), enough ___________ would be saved to _________________.

Here's my answer. If every American household received $5 instead of a compact fluorescent light bulb just one time, that money could have been put toward their utility bill. The utility companies are the ones sponsoring this light-bulb giveaway anyhow.

So thanks for the light bulb, but I'd rather have had the $5.

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