Americans are seeing the light on CFSs

Millions of Americans are seeing the light … the energy- saving light, that is, from compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Going green to save money is catching on.

The benefits of switching to CFLs are huge. For one, they are about 75 percent more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.

According to the federal Energy Star program, if every U.S. home replaced just one bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL, it would save enough energy to light three million homes for a year, cut $600 million in annual energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 800,000 cars off the road. That’s pretty impressive!

CFLs cost more up front. But because they don’t rely on a thin filament to produce light, they are much more durable. CFLs will last an average of more than seven years under normal household conditions. Plug a CFL in your newborn’s nursery, and you won’t have to change it until your child reaches second grade!

These kinds of savings and environmental benefits have prompted growing numbers of Americans to make the switch. In 2007 alone, Americans saved more than $1.5 billion by changing to CFLs. The increased energy efficiency cut pollution equivalent to taking 2 million cars off the road or planting 2.85 million trees. Those are major, positive consequences from such a small and simple choice.

Having proven commercially viable, CFLs are now available in more forms than ever. Today you can find dimmable, three-way and regular CFLs in a variety of shapes, light colors and wattages. There is one for almost every need.

The biggest criticism is that they contain mercury, a hazardous substance. But many people don’t realize that despite containing mercury, CFLs still represent a net gain to the environment — even in terms of mercury pollution.

Incandescent bulbs don’t contain mercury, but they’re lit by electricity, which is often produced by coal-fired power plants. Coal contains mercury, so when it’s burned mercury is released into the air. Coal-burning plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the United States. These plants emit 13.6 milligrams of mercury to light each incandescent bulb, but only 3.3 milligrams per CFL.

Each CFL bulb contains about four milligrams of mercury, enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. (And less than a hundredth of the amount found in a mercury thermometer.) So even if a CFL bulb were tossed in the trash and incinerated — not a good idea — there would still be less mercury released into the environment than through normal use of an incandescent.


f course, like anything containing

hazardous materials, CFLs should be disposed of properly. That’s why recycling is crucial. The mercury inside the bulbs can be reused, further reducing the impact on the environment.

Most New Jersey counties run hazardous waste recycling programs, and your local Home Depot will also accept CFLs for recycling. You can find a recycling drop-off location near you at, www.recycleabulb. com or by calling 1-800-CleanUp.

For a full primer on CFL bulbs — how they work, choosing the right bulbs, proper handling and disposal, and more — check out the Energy Star website at fls.pr_cfls.

See the light, become part of this bright trend and switch to CFL bulbs! And I hope you will consult New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s website at www.njconservation. org or contact me at info@njconservation. org, if you would like more information about conserving New Jersey’s precious land and natural resources.

Michele S. Byers Executive Director N.J. Conservation


Far Hills