Change the World It is cold and dark everywhere across the world. The wind howls mercilessly throughthe desolate landscape. There are no animals or people moving about on their daily business, no life at all anywhere. If there were a human left in the world, she would be a lone voice in the wilderness crying, “Why didn’t everyone just switch to CFL light bulbs??”
Well, all right, perhaps the global warming situation is not so dire, nor would it be so easily solved even if everyone did switch out his or her old light bulbs for the new compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Changing light bulbs is just one thing a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint, along with recycling, driving less, and buying local. There is no doubt the new “green” light bulbs have a lot of advantages in the battle against global warming. CFLs use about 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer. If all the regular light bulbs in the United States were replaced with CFLs, 158 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or the same carbon load as 30 million cars, would be saved (McKeown and Swire, 2009). If that were so, a quick trip in my car to the corner store for a can of soda wouldn’t have such a big impact on my carbon footprint.
Compact fluorescent lights are more energy efficient because they turn more of the electricity into light rather than radiating the energy away as heat. Because of this quality, some people see the light as harsh. CFLs are coated with phosphor, which keeps certain wavelengths of light from showing up to the human eye (Fischetti 2008). I don’t think the light is harsh so much, just that it is brighter. That makes CFL bulbs an advantage, in my eyes. I can always adjust the lampshade so the light doesn’t shine directly in my eyes, and many homes and businesses have dimmer switches installed instead of regular on/off switches. Using a dimmer switch further reduces the amount of electricity needed to keep the lights on. The technology that makes CFL bulbs efficient also makes them cost more money than regular light bulbs, but manufacturers are working on lowering costs so more consumers will accept the change from regular bulbs to CFLs. Over time, the initial higher cost balances out in energy savings and how long the bulbs last before burning out.
Governments all over the world have stepped up the push toward using more energy efficient CFL light bulbs (McKeown and Swire 2009. Fischetti 2008). As far back as 1996, more than 80 percent of Japanese households were using CFLs. Australia has already banned the sale of regular light bulbs. The European Union and Canada will be banning them soon. The United States, ever cautious, has put forward a plan that says manufacturers must increase the quality of incandescent light bulbs by the year 2012, which may result in a phase out eventually if they don’t meet that standard. Our government is still not quite sure there is a global warming problem at all, so American consumers should probably be grateful our government has taken that one small leap for mankind.
If everyone in the world did switch their incandescent light bulbs for energy efficient, long lasting compact fluorescents, that one action alone would make a difference in our global energy use and in the carbon emissions put into the atmosphere. If we don’t use our resources wisely, we will end up with a cold, dark, lifeless world. I believe humans can win the battle against global warming, one small skirmish at a time. Change a light bulb—change the world.
Fischetti, Mark. “The Switch Is On.” Scientific American 298.3 (Mar. 2008): 98-99.
McKeown, Alice and Nathan Swire. “Strong Growth in Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Reduces Electricity Demand.” World Watch 22.1 (Jan. 2009): 29-29.