How Many Environmentalists Does it Take to Change A Light Bulb?
By Bernice Hurst, Managing Director, Fine Food Network
As core suppliers of food, supermarket and fast-food chains have been actively touting healthy-eating educational programs and products to combat America’s obesity problem. As the main suppliers of light bulbs, should bulb retailers and manufacturers be taking the lead in promoting more energy-efficient lighting devices?
Thanks to global warming, the move to phase out the incandescent bulb seems to be picking up speed. The bulbs, first invented by Thomas Edison in 1879, turn only five percent of the electricity it consumes into the light. The rest is wasted heat.
Last November, the McClatchy News Service (MCT) reported that the Department of Energy was endorsing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which use two-thirds less energy than incandescent bulbs while lasting ten times longer. At around the same time, Wal-Mart set a goal of selling 100 million CFLs by 2008. Both the Sam’s Club website and walmartfacts.com provide information and advice to persuade customers. More recently, Andy Rubin, Wal-Mart’s VP of corporate strategy and sustainability, participated in a National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast entitled “Do Fluorescent Bulbs Light the Way to the Future?” A transcript is available through www.walmartfacts.com.
On the vendor side, Theo van Deursen, CEO of Royal Philips Electronics’ lighting division, said last week that he expected to see a resolution shortly among European bulb producers to phase out incandescent bulbs in the home. That followed Australia’s government plans to ban the bulb within three years and news out of California that lawmakers there have introduced a bill seeking to do the same in the state by 2012 over environmental concerns. As EPA website www.energystar.gov puts it, “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.”
mass adoption, however, customers will have to first get used to the look of
CFLs, which resemble thin tubes twisted into a swirl shape. Also, unlike incandescent
bulbs, CFLs include mercury and may pose disposal problems. But the main hurdle
for consumers appears to be price. Although they are steadily coming down,
a four-pack of CFLs can cost about $15 – four of five times a comparable package
incandescent bulbs. Extrapolating costs to calculate long-term savings in electricity
and fewer purchases can prove vexing when you can just buy the cheapest bulb
on the shelf.
But as technology improves, costs are expected to continue to
come down. Plus, CFL adoption already has a big backer in Wal-Mart. As Mr.
Rubin said on NPR, “We have a fundamental belief that all families should have
access to affordable, sustainable goods, and compact fluorescent light bulbs
are a great way for our customers to save money… The working families and
small businesses that are our customers will not only save money when shopping
with us, but also on their electric bills, all the while benefiting the environment.”
questions: Will bulb retailers and vendors promoting and educating consumers
now regarding energy-efficient devices have an advantage over those who are
either later in starting or less visible in current efforts? Should retailers
selling private label bulbs, for example, take the lead in this area and
begin phasing out incandescent bulbs even more quickly than manufacturers?
- New bulbs save energy and money, last longer – McClatchy News Service /San Diego Union-Tribune
- Government pushes to abolish ordinary light bulb – McClatchy News Service /San Diego Union Tribune
- Light-bulb industry at a “tipping point” – The Associated Press/The Seattle Times