Thursday, May 10, 2007

How to Compost Interlude: The Lightbulb Change

So now that I've been composting for a few weeks, I've become a little bit more aware of the things that I throw away. Every time I throw something out in the regular garbage can, I start to wonder if there's an alternative that could have been composted, or at least thrown out less often. So while I'm waiting for nature to work its magic and create compost, I thought I'd spend the next few weeks posting about some of the little changes that are going on in our household.

#1: The Lightbulb Change

Over the last couple months, as bulbs go out in the house, we have been replacing them with compact flourescent lightbulbs (CFLs). According to the EnergyStar Website CFLs:
  • Use at least 2/3 less energy than standard incandescent bulbs
  • Provide the same amount of light
  • Last up to 10 times longer
  • Save $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb’s lifetime
  • Generate 70 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling
One of the misconceptions I had was that CFLs are prohibitively expensive. True, we paid around $4-5 per bulb (Maine has an instant rebate program for CFLs...I think the regular price was around $7-8). But when you keep in mind that you won't need to buy another for 7-10 years, and you'll be saving $30 or more in energy costs over that same time period, it's actually more cost-conscious to buy the CFLs.

Check out Josh Spear's Talk Shop Friday pitch for CFLs. He thinks consumers have a negative association with the word "flourescent," which may be true.

I should also note that while I never paid much attention to CFLs in the past, apparently the more recent versions are far more appealing in both light, style, and cost. is an interesting site where you can type in your zip code and see all kinds of information about CFL use in your town. For instance, in Brunswick, Maine: 20,403 CFLs have been purchased since Jan 1, 2007. According to the site, this amount of reduced energy use also reduces greenhouse gases by the equivalent of taking 78 cars off the road. The site also has some good information on what CFL bulbs are, how to choose a bulb, and why you should switch (click on the "Why You Should Switch" link in the top right-hand corner). You need an updated flash player to view the site, but it only takes a minute to download.

Missed anything in this series? It's easy to catch up:

Step 1: Make it a Priority
Step 2: Choose a System
Interlude: Nature Tried to Kill My Composter
Step 3: Collect Organic Material
Step 4: Mix the Materials
Step 5: Moisten the Mixture
Step 6: Wait
Interlude: The Lightbulb Change
Interlude: The Yogurt Change
Interlude: The Sponge Change
Interlude: The Leftover Change
Interlude: The Napkin Change
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part One
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part Two
Sun-Mar 200 Compost Update
Sun-Mar 200: Starting All Over Again

Step 7: Use Your Compost
Step 8: Sun Mar 200 Garden Composter Review


Anonymous said...

The problem from what I see living and selling everything that cuts energy use and waste is, first you have to be willing to want to cut that waste to lower bills. Becouse we are all so busy trying to make more money to cover high living costs, we dont see any reason to buy a $5.00 CFL bulb to say $30.00 over the bulbs life time, becouse most of us want a return today.

Josephine Cameron said...

Hi Eric.
That's absolutely a good point. We definitely live in a society where we want (and sometimes need) instant results. That's why I thought it was important to start this whole series off with Step 1: Make it a Priority. Like most things, if we don't make reducing waste a priority, it simply won't happen.

I've thought for years that composting is a good idea. Did I do it? No. It wasn't until this spring that I made a conscious choice to make it a priority. I had to actually decide to think three months, one year, five years down the line. I do think/hope people will start thinking more long term.

I think programs like Maine's instant rebate on CFLs are trying to address this problem, but it's a tough one. Even though long-term thinking is a better plan for both the environment *and* our pocketbooks, it's not easy to do on a lot of levels.

Thanks for your comment!

Luke said...

I've been switching over to CF bulbs as well, but sadly have had 3 go out within months of installation.

Any ideas there?

Josephine Cameron said...

I've had a couple dud CF bulbs as well. I did a tiny bit of research and read this Popular Mechanics article from 2009 that gives some tips on how to get the best life out of your CFLs (I think I've made all the mistakes they outline in their bullet points!):