a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Light to lower bills

A better light bulb has been replacing those old standard bulbs by the millions as American households grow greener.

The bulb otherwise known as a compact fluorescent lamp has become the darling of the environmental movement because of its energy efficiency, and a favorite of consumers who want to save money.

“There are very few people who will argue about cutting down on their electric bill with no real sacrifice,” said Jeff Schmidt, director of Pennsylvania’s chapter of the Sierra Club.

It seems that, almost overnight, consumers have become turned on by greener products as more and more people buy into arguments for global warming, he said.
Homeowners now want organic solutions to beautify their lawns or clean the scum off the kitchen counter. Some people in exclusive neighborhoods have even taken to using old-fashioned clotheslines to do their part to lower greenhouse gases.
Better Homes and Gardens magazine announced Friday that it will embark on a 15-city tour in March to promote the launch of Green Works, a new line of household cleaners made from plant-based ingredients.

“Our customers are passionate about … everyday practices for living green,” Gayle Butler, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, stated in a news release.
Anyone who has walked down the lighting department at big-box retail centers can’t help but notice the growing assortment of fluorescent bulbs on the shelves.
“Call your local Home Depot and ask them to compare their sales,” Schmidt said.

The compact lamp was actually developed at General Electric during the oil crisis in the early 1970s. But the product was kept secret for a time because of the high cost of production. Other manufacturers began in the 1980s to market the lamp, but consumers didn’t buy them in great numbers because they didn’t emit a lot of light and were too bulky for most lighting fixtures. In the past year or so, the bulbs have become more compact to the point where they are about the same size as the traditional incandescent lamp, technology that dates to the 1800s.

The fluorescent lamp is particularly attractive to consumers because it lasts longer, and just one bulb can reduce the average electric bill by more than $30 over five years. But the growing greener movement doesn’t end with one light bulb.
California University of Pennsylvania has been recognized by the state for its energy management program that has gone as far to require switches in dorm rooms that turn off the air conditioning if a student opens a window.

Peters Township attempted to copy nature when it built a new $5 million recreation center in 2004 with two wings at the entrance that are supposed to make the building look like a hawk. Fluorescent lighting is used exclusively in the gymnasium, which has windows that help to warm the building and provide enough light so people don’t need to turn on the lights when it’s sunny outside.

“We were looking at it more from the standpoint of cost effectiveness than the green aspect of it,” said Michael Silvestri, township manager in Peters.
But now, he said, township supervisors are in the early stages of developing a broader green program, one that may introduce the use of biofuels for the township’s fleet of vehicles, he said.

There are communities across the nation that are doing far more than Peters to save the planet. As many as 800 municipalities, including Pittsburgh, have joined the Sierra Club’s “cool cities” program, Schmidt said. Westmoreland County, meanwhile, is looking into the concept.

The cool cities make a pledge to purchase some electricity “off the grid” from such sources as wind generators, he said. They also agree to buy hybrid vehicles rather than gasoline-guzzling sport-utility vehicles.

“It’s kind of an alignment of the planets,” Schmidt said.

(Published with permission of the Observer-Reporter)

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