The EU has started phasing out conventional light bulbs and the reactions I’m seeing around here are about as negative as I expected, seeing as it’s a decision that inconveniences people somewhat. Even many of those who claim to care for the environment only do so as long as it doesn’t cost them any time, money or effort, of course.
Here, the newspapers have taken to checking out stores that have significant stocks of conventional light bulbs and asking people who are seen buying large quantities of them what makes them do this. By far the most common response has to do with price, a CFL being four to 25 times more expensive than a conventional light bulb. It should also last five to 20 times as much, and if you add that to the savings generated by the significantly lower power consumption you’ll see that it should pay for itself many times over, but people don’t think like that. Admittedly, another complaint some people had was that they tried to use CFLs before and they burned out about as fast as the conventional ones, if not faster. The newspapers point out that the two most common causes for that are the frequent power fluctuations, to which CFLs are quite vulnerable, and the fact that people are looking for the cheapest possible CFLs, which should also be expected to be of the lowest possible quality. People are also unhappy because, due to the mercury content, they won’t be able to just throw them in the trash once they burn out. Finally, there is a general dissatisfaction with the cool light that most people think all CFLs emit, though this concerns them less than the other three issues.
I believe it should already be quite clear that price shouldn’t be a concern. Not that cost should matter when it comes to protecting the environment anyway, but in this case CFLs really aren’t more expensive than conventional light bulbs if you take everything into account. Of course, certain conditions must be met in order for that to be true, conditions which allow a CFL to last as long as it should. Improving the reliability of the power grid would help everything that uses electricity, so the main problem is not that CFLs are vulnerable to power fluctuations, but that those fluctuations happen so frequently. Using CFLs properly will also greatly prolong their lifespan, and that means not turning them on or off after less than ten minutes and keeping them out of closed fixtures and humid environments, among other things. It’d also help a lot if people would put more emphasis on quality instead of price when determining what to buy. Those who are worried about the mercury content should look for the best quality even more, since the best CFLs can contain as little as one milligram, while some of the cheaper ones can contain more than six. It can be argued that, depending on the method used to generate that electricity, the lower consumption of a CFL can prevent more mercury from being released than it itself contains, but something that makes people refrain from just dumping something in the trash can’t exactly be bad anyway, not even when we’re talking about fear. Yes, there’s certainly a very long way to go before we’ll have a passable recycling infrastructure, but that only means we need to work on that infrastructure… As for the final complaint, there are certainly CFLs that emit warm light…
All in all, I don’t think anyone needed more evidence in favor of the idea that most people can’t be gently persuaded to do something good for the environment, but there it is nevertheless. If they even resist a measure that, given time, will also save them money, what could you expect for the others? But these measures are sorely needed… They’re too little and too late, actually, but they are tiny steps in the right direction and I just hope we’ll pick up the pace soon enough.
People must be made to use less, reuse more and recycle the rest, because information and persuasion are obviously not working. Then they must also be made to repair the damage already caused, but that’s a somewhat different story. And, of course, the most important thing is to make them breed far less, and perhaps also desire shorter, though certainly far healthier, lives.