Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Light Bulb Q & A

Do you have a favorite light bulb joke? I do.

Q: How many Jewish grandmothers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: Never mind—I’ll just sit here in the dark and remember your face.

I actually have a Jewish grandmother, and I can’t even type this out without laughing. What is it about light bulbs that is funny? Why light bulb jokes and not light switch jokes? Light bulbs are just funny I guess, and light switches are not. Ever heard Dave Letterman’s phone call to the store in Manhattan, Just Bulbs? Don’t get me started.

Here’s a not-as-funny light bulb headline that I found in Spirituality & Health magazine.

Q: How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take to Unscrew the Environment?
A: One Million.

Not, mind you, that I think the environment is screwed, but it’s askew to be sure. Here’s what the editors of S & H are drawing to our attention.

There’s a simple way to help with global warming. A very simple way. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it saves you money. How’s that for a sales pitch?

Environmental Defense suggests that we swap out our regular light bulbs for CFLs—compact fluorescent light bulbs. You know the ones they mean. Those spiral-y ones with the same screw base as a “regular” a.k.a. incandescent light bulb.

If you’re like me, this suggestion brings up a smattering of resistance. You see, I’m attached to the warm light quality and tone from the good old light bulbs. We live in a Victorian house with lots of century-old dark woodwork and doors. I like the warm light.

So? So, it requires an adjustment. That’s all.

Sort of like switching from whole milk to two percent. Initially, we don’t like it, but over time, we adjust.

Here’s why I think we ought to do the Great American Light Bulb Swap which Environmental Defense calls the One Million-Bulb Swap-Out. Their goal is one million light bulb exchanges to prevent ONE BILLION pounds of CO2 from polluting the environment further. One billion pounds!? How do you even measure one billion pounds of pollution? (There’s a page on their website that explains this but when I went to read it, the light went out in my being, giving new meaning to lights on, nobody home.)*

At the time the May/June issue went to press,
had 110,688 pledges saving 119,432,352 pounds of pollution from our precious atmosphere. As I write this, it’s up to 224,561 bulbs (that’s almost a quarter of a million bulbs) saving 242,301,319 pounds of pollution. On their site, go to their light bulb guide—they’ll give you the scoop on a lot more than spiral CFLs—and click on Take the Pledge.

The prevailing wisdom is that these bulbs use one-third the energy of an incandescent bulb. Could that mean one-third the electric bill as well? I’m all for that.

All right, it’s been nagging at me so I’ll be right back . . . I just counted the number of light bulbs we have in our condo. It’s a whopping 32! Who knew? to quote my Jewish grandmother.

So I have to confess. We have an absolutely stunning Victorian stained glass lamp in the living room. I turn it on almost every evening to read by it. Whilst the old-fashioned bulbs made for warm lighting, I’m getting to be a certain age, and the spiral CFLs make for clearer reading, much clearer reading.

I adjusted.

I pledged, too, so the number is up by 32 already.

Q: Will YOU?
A: Never mind—just sit there in your new CFL light, and remember our planet.

*I just checked my email after closing this file and of course there’s one from ED thanking me for pledging and suggesting I forward their email to three friends making my pledge triply effective. I’m going to do it, but first I wanted to add here that they boil down their complex formula to about 1000 pounds of pollution is saved per light bulb. Wow.

No comments: