Friday, March 19, 2010

Are CFL bulbs really that green?

Ask Ida

Dear Ida B. Green,

Energy-efficient CFL bulbs sound great but I understand they have toxic mercury in them. Are they really that green?



Dear Illuminated ,

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs) are a wonderful, energy-saving alternative to the old incandescent bulbs. They use 75 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than the traditional bulb. But the mercury inside a CFL remains an issue worth considering when disposing of used bulbs.

In the valley, you can recycle your CFL bulb at Hailey City Hall or the Environmental Resource Center in Ketchum. It's also good to check at the store where you buy your new bulbs to see if they will recycle the old ones for you. (Note that the battery in your wristwatch probably carries five times as much mercury and should also be recycled properly).

As with any manmade goods, it's important to consider the larger environmental impact. Generation of electricity is the No. 1 source of mercury in our air. Using energy-efficient CFLs can actually reduce the amount of mercury pollution, as they demand less electricity. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that a 60-watt-equivalent CFL (containing approximately 4 milligrams of mercury) will save 376 kilowatt hours of electricity over its lifetime, avoiding 4.5 milligrams of mercury released at the power plant. With recycling, that 4.5-milligrams of mercury is all environmental savings.

Easy to be Green,

Ida —Elizabeth Jeffery

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