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CFL Bulbs Don't Come In Green

I've blogged already about how I don't like compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL's). In the blog I questioned whether the bulbs were as "green" as they were being made out to be. I feel like my arguments at the time were pretty good, but I was missing a huge component in my case against the little pig-tailed bulbs. Until now...

Earlier this week, I spotted a headline in the News-Leader that read, "Broken fluorescent bulb cleanup requires caution". It was a 'Dear Heloise' column. If you are not familiar with who Heloise is, then you are probably unfamiliar with reading the newspaper. Heloise, according to her website, is America's premier hintologist whose columns appear in over 500 newspapers in both the United States and internationally. I wasn't aware of that before finding her website, so stop making fun of me. I was also previously unaware of the science of hintology.

Bear in mind, that it was my opinion before having read this article that CFL bulbs were worse for the environment than their more traditional incandescent counterparts. But this article really drove the nails into the CFL coffin for me. It reads as follows:

If a compact fluorescent lamp or bulb accidentally breaks, what do you do? The glass is very delicate and can shatter easily if dropped or even handled roughly when being removed from the socket. The bulbs contains a small amount of powdered mercury, so caution is needed for cleanup.
Follow these cleanup guidelines:
    Open a window for ventilation for at least 15 minutes before starting cleanup.
    Do not handle the pieces with bare hands; wear protective disposable gloves.
    Place the pieces in a plastic bag and then into another one, and use duct tape to pick up the tiny fragments.
    Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels, and place the towels in the bag, too.
    If the area where the bulb broke is carpeted, you can vacuum the carpet, but you must immediately remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the vacuum bag in with this other bulb trash. Do not vacuum hard floor surfaces.
    Check with your trash company or call your recycling center for specific disposal directions. As a general rule, fluorescent bulbs can be put in the trash for pickup or taken to the dump if your state and local regulations allow. Or, check for a recycling center near you.
Let's continue to help the environment and go green!

So, let's condense and review, shall we? A broken CFL bulb is so toxic that we must go to some extreme cleanup measures in order to protect ourselves. A single broken bulb will add to the landfill a pair of disposable gloves, two plastic bags, some duct tape, some paper towels, and possibly a vacuum bag not to mention the mercury that you "cleaned" up. Also, if you must open a window for ventilation for 15 minutes, how much more energy are you using to reheat or recool your home? Also, the CFL bulb is much more complicated than the simple incandescent bulb and uses considerably more energy to produce. Furthermore, the CFL bulbs are not made in America. Patriotism aside, the CFL bulbs require much more energy to be shipped here compared to the American made incandescent bulb.

Make no mistake, CFL bulbs are in no way more green than incandescent bulbs. Rather, their huge Sasquatch carbon footprint and their toxicity make for a very ugly weapon to the environment. The use of CFL bubls remind me of the people who preach to recycle but are so eager to recycle, in fact, that they never reuse anything. The motto goes: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Which means we must first focus on the former and only use the latter as a last resort.

The CFL bulbs claim to use less energy, which may be true but the cost of the energy they use before they are ever installed in your home coupled with the cost of their environmentally toxic impact negate any energy savings they may offer during usage.


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