'Carbonfree' Light Bulbs: Offsets Done Right


This post is about light bulbs - the world’s first ‘carbonfree’ light bulb, to be precise, but first, let us digress. Carbon offsets tend to create a lot of tension in the green-minded community. There is even disagreement among us usually mild-mannered TreeHuggers. Mark, on the one hand, feels that offsets are basically built on guilt, while Michael Graham Richard sees them as a potentially useful tool. This author has himself agonized over whether offsets are a good or bad thing, and has come to the conclusion that they can be of benefit if, and only if, they are part of a wider emissions reduction strategy. It makes sense, for example, for Eurostar to further improve their already impressive environmental record, and then offset to take responsibility for emissions they can’t eliminate immediately, as they announced this week. It seems less justifiable, in this author's eyes at least, to launch a hugely carbon-intensive service like a business-class only airline, and then simply claim it’s green by offsetting emissions, as Silverjet have done. Of course one could argue that Silverjet, or another competitor, would have launched anyway, and it’s better to offset than to do nothing, but it still seems dangerously close to offsets providing a fig leaf for ‘business as usual.’ Anyhow, back to light bulbs. Ecofuture have launched The Bulb, the world’s first light bulb to be both energy star rated, therefore causing much less emissions in the first place, AND certified ‘carbonfree’ through Carbon Fund. Their slogan (‘You do your part. We’ll do ours.’) seems to sum up what sensible offsetting should be about, namely coming at the problem from both angles, and encouraging everybody to make an effort – rather than simply signing a check so you can carry on as normal, while someone else cuts their emissions. We would not be anywhere near as impressed, for example, if an incandescent bulb manufacturer came up with the same 'carbonfree' campaign, thereby encouraging folks to stick with old, outdated, inefficient and polluting lighting technology because somebody, somewhere had been given money towards a wind turbine. This TreeHugger applauds Ecofuture, and wishes them every success with The Bulb.

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