The compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) has in many ways become an icon of green living: Lasting up to 10 times longer than a standard incandescent bulb, the corkscrew-shaped lights symbolize — and are — a simple way to cut electricity consumption. Enthusiastically endorsed by everyone from former Vice President Al Gore to Wal-Mart to Christian groups highlighting climate change as a moral issue (last winter, a program under the North Carolina Council of Churches encouraged congregation members to replace one light bulb with a CFL each time a new Advent candle was lit), the bulb is even personified in Progress Energy’s Save A Watt Guy, whose photo appears in energy-saving brochures enclosed with the utility bill.
Wanna give one a whirl? There’s a good chance to get one this weekend. Here’s the word from the Buncome County Web site: Ribbon Nutrition, Pink Penguin Press and Carbonfund.org are hosting a CFL exchange from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 28, at Greenlife in Asheville. Guests can bring in an incandescent bulb and trade it in for a CFL during those ours.
There’s no doubt that a CFL can save loads of energy over the course of its lifetime. But for all the celebration surrounding the spiraled energy savers, the bulbs aren’t perfect: They contain mercury, a toxic substance that can devastate any environment where it accumulates. CFLs should be properly recycled to prevent mercury inside the bulb from leaking into ground water, according to a Buncombe County press release. A program launched July 1 by the county allows citizens to drop off their used or broken CFLs at local volunteer fire departments. For now, the following stations are accepting bulbs: Beaverdam, Black Mountain, Enka, Fairview, Reems Creek, Riceville, Skyland, Livingston Street in Asheville and Station 11 at Rocky Ridge Road near Biltmore Square Mall.
If a CFL breaks, the release warns, do not use a vacuum to clean it, as that can spread hazardous vapors. Sweep up the contents, and wipe the area with a wet paper towel or cloth. Both the broken fragments and the towel should be placed in a ziplock bag and brought to a fire station for disposal. And the room where the bulb was broken should be ventilated.
— Rebecca Bowe