Virtue and Common Sense in a CFL

No matter how much we and others try to emphasize the non-partisan, non-ideological nature of living more sustainably, many people still love to stick the "L-word" on Treehuggers. While that's certainly true for some of us, conservatives of all sorts are also "getting it" in terms of the practicality and sheer common sense of greening our homes and business practices. This week, columnist Kathleen Parker gives a vote of confidence to greener technology by advocating for compact fluorescent light bulbs as a common-sense, and even virtuous, alternative to building more coal-fired power plants. She focuses on the debate over a new plant in Tallahassee, Florida, but the simple act of changing a light bulb can have national and global repercussions. According to Parker,

It sounds silly, but it's not. In the current issue of Fast Company magazine, Charles Fishman (author of The Wal-Mart Effect) writes about a tiny, energy-saving miracle called the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL).

Improved, but not new, the CFL uses 75 percent to 80 percent less electricity than the classic incandescent bulb and lasts for about five years. Fishman predicts the CFL is about to change the world. Here's how: If all 110 million households in America replaced just one 60-watt bulb with a CFL, the energy saved would power a city of 1.5 million people.

Or save enough to shut down two power plants -- or skip building the next two.

What if Tallahassee handed out one free CFL to its approximately 80,000 households? I called Fishman to find out. He suggested giving 10 CFLs to each household at a cost of about $1 million. (CFLs cost slightly less than $3 each, but would sell for about $1 in such bulk, he figures.)

Given that one 60-watt bulb replaced saves 65.7 kilowatt-hours per year -- and a typical U.S. household uses 10,700 kilowatt-hours a year -- then Tallahassee would save enough power to light 4,881 homes. That's an energy savings of about 5 percent.

While 5 percent is a small savings in the grand scheme, it's a pretty good return on $1 million. Plus, that leaves plenty of saved money -- oh, about $399 million -- to direct toward other alternatives and innovations that don't involve producing more greenhouse gasses or polluting someone else's backyard.

Surely there's virtue -- -- and common sense -- in that.

Can we call Kathleen Parker an honorary Treehugger? Perhaps we should hold off there -- perhaps she doesn't want the label -- but we can certainly give her kudos for spreading the word on these tiny technological marvels. Thanks to TH reader Otto Strasburg (yeah, that's my Dad) for the tip. via the Lake Charles (Louisiana) American Press