Steamboat Springs In 1956, my father bought a new Volkswagen Bug. Our little backwoods Oregon community had never seen a car like it, and many accused our family of buying an oversized golf cart. They said it was unsafe at any speed, and how could one travel at a mere 68 mph top speed?
My father only shrugged as he shared its price tag and casually mentioned how far it would go on a dollar's worth of gas. He was not an activist or out to change the world, but his model of frugality and innovation affected many around him, especially me. He went on to become a federal judge, and I became a "frugal innovator" living and traveling for many years aboard a small boat. I'm retired now, but I still enjoy making a few waves. Let me share this one with you.
Recently, I became part of a local group to help bring in new ideas to celebrate Obama's Inauguration. Five thousand bipartisan groups like ours have formed around the nation (the Routt County group is called "Change We Need") to create community service projects. Our selected project was to distribute compact florescent light bulbs throughout the county.
Immediately, upon promoting the idea, we encountered interesting opposition to the CFL changeover. I was reminded of my Dad and that '56 VW when we heard all the reasons that these new bulbs were a bad idea.
"The bulbs are not bright enough."
"They flicker when turned on."
"They contain and emit excessive amounts of mercury."
"It would be a waste to just throw away the old bulbs."
I even read an article claiming that we were all part of a massive Wal-Mart conspiracy to sell millions of bulbs.
Unlike my father (who didn't care what the neighbors drove), I do care, because how much energy my neighbors burn up is now affecting me, my children and all of you.
But here are the facts. Make your own decision.
- CFLs use 75 percent less electricity for the same amount of light emitted.
- CFLs last 13 times longer (cost more, but you can find them on sale - or even get them for free).
- Worn-out CFLs should be disposed of correctly. Call 870-7575.
- The new models do not flicker and emit a very soft but bright light.
- The mercury content is half that of what it takes to burn through the life of one incandescent bulb.
- Beginning in 2012, incandescent bulbs will be phased out worldwide. And I might add some of my own math:
- Replacing five bulbs per household in Routt County would save 11 million kilowatts.
- This would save more than $250 per household.
- If (actually, it's when) the county makes the switch, 11 tons of carbon would not be emitted into the atmosphere each year.
I don't work for Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware, Steamboat Lumber, Xcel Energy or the Yampa Valley Electric Association, but I do appreciate their generous contributions toward this conservation effort.
I'd also appreciate it if you would, at least, do your own math and then make your own investment in CFL bulbs for a greener future.