I recently joined in the 1 million lightbulb campaign being run here in the Netherlands by Greenpeace and the folks involved in the Hier coalition. This is such a simple and powerful concept. The campaign objective is crisp: replace 1 million old incandescent light bulbs with Compact Fluorescents.
And the implementation is fun: you buy your bulbs, you take a picture of yourself replacing your old globe-warming-and-polar-bear-killing light sources, then upload it to the site. You know you’re in good company, because the page you arrive on shows you other pictures of shiny happy people laughing and replacing their bulbs. The site calculates both your carbon and money savings.
About 100,000 people have taken part so far. Greenpeace Netherlands promoted the campaign by changing light bulbs in the Red-light district. And light-bulb manufacturer Phillips is said to be astounded by the sharp increase in CFL sales. They’ve even introduced a trade-in-your-old-bulb scheme in response to the campaign.
A few of us have been advocating internally at Greenpeace for a “Ban the bulb” campaign for a while, one that combines the individually empowering elements that the Dutch office has stitched together perfectly, with classic Greenpeace oppositional style activities: challenging manufacturers to abandon incandescent technology, challenging governments to start taxing incandescents to level the playing field, and doing activist style raids on the public buildings that still don’t get it.
And then there’s Green Squads: subversives who swap old light bulbs for CFLs whether the target energy user likes it or not. I had visions of high school kids downloading an activist plan, having bake sales in their schools to raise money for bulbs, or bulb sales to raise money for more bulbs, then going out on replacement raids (with the reporter and photographer from the school paper in tow, of course.) On this one, it seems a record label beat me to articulating this in a video.
“What’s the big deal with light bulbs?” you might ask…
Here’s a blurb from the beeb:
It has been estimated that if every household in the US replaced just three of its incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving designs and used them for five hours per day, it would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 23 million tonnes, reduce electricity demand by the equivalent of 11 coal-fired power stations and save $1.8bn.
Given that investing $450m could save $1.8bn, it is hard to understand why anyone would still choose incandescent bulbs.
But it’s more than that. The battle between incandescent and CFL bulbs is one that symbolizes the new attitude we’re all going to have to adopt toward energy efficiency. The days when electricity could be treated as an inexhaustible supply are just gone. The incandescent bulb uses only 15 percent of its energy to make light. The rest just heats up a patch of ceiling. That’s just not an efficiency ratio the world can afford.
My New Year’s resolution: a 100% CFL household. I’ve been chipping away at this for the last couple years, and now that CFL prices have come way down there’s just no excuse not to ban old bulbs from Casa Fitzcarraldo. And the fact that I’ll be saving money over and above the purchase price of the bulb makes this a win-win-win for me, my pocketbook, and the planet.