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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How Many Environmentalists Does it Take to Screw Up the Light Bulb?

The incandescent light bulb was such a brilliant, inspired idea that the light bulb itself became the symbol for brilliant, inspired ideas. Lately, a combination of green movement idealism, HECO discount coupons and energy-conscious legislation has been moving people toward the Compact Fluorescent Light bulb, or CFL.

According to recent Honolulu Advertiser reports, Honoluluans purchased some 700,000 such bulbs in 2007, but that number has dropped off sharply. Up to now, we have purchased only 265,000 CFLs in 2008. Optimists say this is because the bulbs last so long, no one needs to replace their 2007 purchases yet.

It turns out while CFLs use less electricity and can last longer than incandescent bulbs, they offer fresh new ways for humans to mess with the environment. Namely, they contain mercury. Not a lot. The EPA insists it’s safe to toss them in the garbage. But people who are worried about millions of spent CFLs leeching mercury into the landfill are encouraged to dispose of them through a recycling center. One imagines that the people most likely to worry about their carbon footprint would, in fact, be the same people who would worry about mercury poisoning. (Tangentially related, gratuitous pop culture reference: John Frankenheimer’s 1979 mercury-poisoning horror film Prophecy.)

Of course, Hawaii has no such CFL recycling center. But for $20, you can buy a postage-paid kit online so you can safely mail your toxic household waste to the Mainland. By air, of course, thereby burning jet fuel and dumping carbon into the atmosphere.

This all seems to come up a bit short in the brilliant and inspired department.



Posted on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 in Permalink

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