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Green Living – Make the Light Switch

Switching to CFL bulbs make both economic and environmental sense.

Who would have thought that the humble light bulb can make such a difference to the world? From the beginnings of its invention under Thomas Edison in 1878, the light bulb has undergone many improvements and seen many innovations. Today, we are presented with various choices when purchasing a light bulb for our homes and by choosing a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb over a regular light bulb we can all do our part for the earth.

It is estimated that if every American home replaced just one regular light bulb with a CFL bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars! This energy saving bulb has sometimes been called an “ice-cream-cone spiral,” because in its most-advanced, most-appealing version, it looks like nothing so much as a cone of swirled soft-serve ice cream.

So what is special about the CFL bulb? It uses at least 2/3 less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and lasts up to 10 times longer.

Typically, a user can save $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb’s lifetime. The bulb generates 70 percent less heat, so they are safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling. In addition, it turns on instantly and produces no sound, and is sold in different sizes and shapes to fit in almost any fixture, for indoors and outdoors.

The business world is finally taking notice of these bulbs and Wal-Mart made a major push into CFL bulbs late last year. In fact, Wal-Mart has teamed up with General Electric, which owns about 60% of the residential light bulb market in the United States, to meet its goals of doubling U.S. sales for CFLs in a year. The potential of CFL bulbs to make a difference to our world has also received coverage in major business magazines such as FastCompany in their September 2006 issue.

At HBS, the Graduate Green Living Program will also be doing its part to promote the use of CFL bulbs. Over 100 CFL bulbs will be distributed by Green Living Representatives to HBS dorm residents. Although permanent lighting structures in rooms and hallways are energy efficient, most residents supplement this light with 1-2 lamps. In many cases, the cost, lack of availability, and a poor quality perception of CFL bulbs prevents residents from using them. The distribution and subsequent usage of these free bulbs is an effort to not only immediately reduce energy consumption, but also to overcome unwarranted negative perceptions.

Moreover, the residents in HRES buildings at Peabody Terrace, One Western Avenue and Soldiers Field Park will get the opportunity to swap a standard incandescent light bulb for an environmentally friendly CFL bulb by contacting their respective Green Living Representatives. The objective is to let residents realize how easy it is to switch to CFL bulbs and make a difference to their environment.

Learn more
Sustainability at Harvard: www.greencampus.harvard.edu

February 12, 2007
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