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Green or Mean?


The U.S. is going green and I have mixed feelings about it. In recent years, I've heard so much about "green" this and "green" that and I can't help but wonder what all the agendas are packed away behind these movements. Of course, I know that reducing energy consumption is a good thing, so don't jump to conclusions yet about me. I simply have a habit of reading between the lines because I've found that the lines are usually packed with interesting information between them almost in every cause.

Take Al Gore's hypocrisy for example. I won't get into all the details since many of you already know about this controversy, so I'll keep it brief. He's become some poster boy for "going green" but owns large stocks in an oil company that has been known to drill in ecologically sensitive areas. He isn't signed up for the renewable energy usage programs in any one of his three homes despite those programs being readily available by the utility companies in all three areas. And his homes total over 18,000 square feet and we all know that there's no way that this amount of space can be energy efficient in any form. USA Today reported on these facts among many others supporting the belief that he doesn't practice what he preaches. I wouldn't come down so hard on him, but he talks about our energy usage as if the sky is falling. He uses such phrases as "cataclysmic catastrophe", "ticking time bomb", and "uncontrollable tailspin."

No, Al Gore's rhetoric isn't new to anyone and to me it just seems like he jumped on an obvious bandwagon to promote himself and to make some easy money. So, then why the blog topic, you ask? And I'm glad you did. It's Walmart. A couple weeks ago, Jodi went to Walmart to pick up some things. Among the list was light bulbs. But, when she got to the light bulb aisle she was shocked. No, she wasn't electrocuted. She found empty shelves where the incandescent light bulbs used to be. The only light bulbs left available for purchase were CFLs. She called me and we briefly discussed it and we decided that she should just not purchase any bulbs and that we'd get them at a later date.

This last week, I found that another Walmart also was missing the incandescents. This confirmed what we thought to be the case which is that Walmart has removed incandescent light bulbs from their store shelves. But Why? Well, I did some research and found that two years ago at the end of 2006 Walmart announced that they were setting a goal to sell 100 million CFL bulbs a year starting in 2007. This made headlines just as it was designed to do. Walmart wants to also jump on the bandwagon with ol' Al and get their name associated with trying to help reduce energy consumption as well as appear to be trying to save their customers' money.

Walmart's move came just after Oprah touted the bulbs on her TV show and sales started to rise accordingly. Oprah apparently has a lot of little Oprah-brain-washed followers that will buy any book she talks about, love anyone she loves, and believe anything she says. I'm sure that you are picking up that I don't like Oprah. Just for the record, I also don't like Barack Obama. (GASP!) Call me what you will, I can take it. I never have liked Oprah. She doesn't really listen to anyone, she just jumps in to ask questions, but doesn't care at all about the answers. She leads people down a religious path in which there is nothing to back her views other than her own disorganized and contradictory statements. And she knows that she has this influence on people and rather than humbly using it for good she uses it for her own gain. I really don't like her. Her endorsement of the CFL bulbs alone make me want to go stock pile incandescents and start searching out CFLs in use and replacing them with incandescents completely undetected like a ninja. Mmm. "Incandescent Ninja" I LIKE that.

I couldn't find anything on the Internet that was discussing Walmart's announcement that they were removing incandescents from their shelves. I only found articles talking about stores doing it in the UK. This leads me to believe that Walmart didn't announce it. Why wouldn't they announce it? In 2007, Walmart reportedly hit their goal of 100 million light bulbs sold in early October. But, maybe all those people who purchased these bulbs last year from all the hype on the pros realized all the cons as they were put to use. I fell into that category. If you've ever used these bulbs, you probably do, too.

"Did that new CFL bulb on the porch burn out already?!", I asked as I was walking towards the front door. I got there and looked through the window directly at the bulb and saw that it was indeed on, but I hadn't been able to tell from just a few feet away. "It's on, but where's the light?" Sound familiar? The manufacturers of these bulbs whose packages claim that they are the equivalent of a 100-watt incandescent clearly don't fully comprehend the definition of the word "equivalent". That's like saying that just because Fat Albert can walk a mile eventually and Carl Lewis can run a mile in under 6 minutes that they must be equal. What's next? Energy efficient garbage disposals? Flip the switch, come back in three or four minutes when the blades have picked up some momentum and then start inserting your unwanted food particles one particle at a time because a few too many uneaten peas at once can stop the rotation of the blades. We bought a total of 12 of these CFL bulbs and are down to 3 or 4 of them. Because they've burnt out. It seems to me that their lifespan has been seriously exaggerated. I highly doubt that I've saved enough from their so-called efficiency to even offset the increased cost that I paid for them. Furthermore, we limited their usage to certain areas because of the nature of their dimness. Sure, they eventually get to be as bright as incandescents after a long while, but what good does that do for a closet light? When you open the closet to get something you turn the light on. You find the item in the small room with the aid of the light and then you turn the light off. CFL's won't help you find the item you're looking for unless you have the foresight or time to turn the light on minutes before you intend to actually look for the item. But, by then you've used all that extra electricity and probably used more energy than you would have otherwise. This argument also kept us from using them in bedrooms for the same reason. The kitchen wasn't a very good place for them since you need all the light you can get in there. The bathrooms weren't an ideal CFL bulb location since it's mostly boys in the house and you don't want boys to pee in the dark. Trust me on that one. As a matter of fact, when it came down to it, there were only two places in the house that we gave in and used the CFL bulbs: the front porch and the basement. And, we could only get away with using them in those areas because we tend to leave those lights on all the time.

Sorry, CFLs, but you suck. And now, so does Walmart for putting such a huge effort towards the sale of these little useless bulbs culminating in a removal of any choice for the consumer. What I find most interesting in all my research is that these bulbs contain mercury. You are not supposed to throw them in the trash because they can pollute the soil and eventually the groundwater, lakes, and streams. The consumer is supposed to recycle them, but there's no recycling centers that take them. Currently, only IKEA will take them from customers to recycle them. Ironically, Walmart has thus far refused to set up any sort of recycling avenues for their customers. And this is doubly ironic since Walmart's recent lofty goal and push for the sale of these bulbs has pushed them into the number one seller of CFL bulbs in the Unites States. I guess that energy conservation is more important to Walmart than environmental preservation. This is probably true because an incoming dollar amount can be affixed to the former while an obvious expense is attached to the latter. Without easy accessibility to a recycling method for these bulbs, you can count on the fact that consumers will put these bulbs in the trash.

Walmart probably doesn't want to implement a recycling method for similar reasons as other companies. There is a high risk for mercury exposure in dealing with these discarded bulbs. First, how do you keep them from breaking? Because, once they're broken the exposure is imminent. To recycle these would require a quarantined area, packing them in something similar to egg crates and having the handlers wear those orange jumpsuits with the gas masks that we so often see in movies. It's no wonder why Walmart hasn't set up a way to recycle them. But, then why do they keep pushing them to be sold?

I am obviously questioning the bulb's green-ness. What do you think? Do you use them? Do you like them? Do you think that the aliens invented them? Let me know.

3 comments:

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First off, I do not like the lighting that these bulbs put off. I feel like another depressed woman trying on a bathing suit. Secondly, MERCURY?!?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? Why? Why would you create something (something else actually, I just remembered the thermometer) that when broken would emit poisonous material?? To take up for the thermometer though, we don't go through several, several thermometers a year and then just throw them away. No, we actually guard their safety with little hard cases so that they DON'T break because we KNOW the risk of mercury. I wasn't even aware about the mercury thing with these bulbs making me one of the villains who threw one away! Third, what is up with the new 38 and 52 watt incandescents being the only thing available left in incandescent?? 38 watt?? For a lamp perhaps. Am I missing something?

I didnt even know there was such a thing as cfls and incandescents, and for the record I dont ever listen to Oprah so I guess I dont know whether I like her or not.

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