We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow the earth from our
-Native American Proverb
We have been treating the Earth like we don't live on it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

CFL's: Good or Bad?

My friend (who is a democrat but not eco-minded) just sent me this video and it got me wondering if Compact Florescent Light Bulbs or CFL's are worth the effort. I am not saying I agree or disagree with the congressman. He just got my brain cranking. But I can say, I rarely trust republicans in matters of the environment.

We all agree CFL's save us money because over its life time it is more energy efficient than its counterpart, the incandescent bulb. We can also agree that in being more efficient they save greenhouse gas emissions from being emitted to our air. And not to mention, they are less effort to have in your house because you replace them less frequently. Therefore less driving to the store to buy them, thus even more saved greenhouse emissions.

BUT, they are made with mercury. If the bulb is broken it can leak mercury. Do you know what mercury does to a human if exposed? It is a neurotoxin that can affect babies and young children's memory, language and attention. (Not to mention what it can do to animals.) The glass that encompassed that mercury can have lead in it. Do you know what lead does to humans? It also can also cause neurological problems. That is why, when a CFL breaks, you MUST take special precautions to dispose of it.
And when the light burns out are you able to recycle it? Some locations do not offer this service or worse yet there are many people who don't care to recycle so that lead and mercury ends up in our land fills. And then into our soil, our air and waterways. Yummy, I didn't know mercury was a seasoning for fish. This is a HUGE concern of mine. Most people I know do not recycle CFL's, they don't care to or don't know how. (Yes, I let them know how, but that is all I can do.) What scares me also is the U.S. is looking to ban incandescent bulbs like Australia and Canada have already done. I am ok with that so long as EVERYONE recycles them. Oh, I forgot, most people don't do that.

So what do us Greenies and health conscience people do?
  • Education. Do your homework. I know everyone reading eco-blogs, eco-websites, eco-books and eco-mags are doing their part. We need to help spread the word to recycle the bulbs the best way you know how.

  • Buy the bulbs that boast less mercury and lead. Turolight and Philips both boast less mercury in their CFL's.

  • Recycle them. Earth911.org can help you.

  • Start a recycle drive. At school. At work. With your non-profit. Any group can help collect and recycle.

  • Take them to IKEA.

  • Contact your local government to find out if they are recycling. Call, email or look in yellow pages. If they don't recycle CFL's try to change their mind.

  • You can also keep them until there is a hazardous drop off in your area or until better recycling of CFL is available.

Oh, did I mention most CLF's are made in China? The same country that poisoned our pets with contaminated pet food. The same country that makes most of our toys, made with lead. And then , of course, there was the toothpaste dilemma. Does China follow good human and environmental policies? We all know the answer to that. Is it worth it to contaminate China (and us for that matter) with coal (in manufacturing the bulbs), lead and mercury?

Just wondering....

What is your take?

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