How to Ditch the CFL Lightbulb and Go Green!

LED Lightbulbs

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You know how cool it is to be “green” and so you made the switch to CFL bulbs because everybody was doing it?
Have you ever broken one of those “cool” twisty lightbulbs?
On TodaysMama, there was recently a post about how to clean up the mercury should you break a CFL bulb.

What? you say, What mercury?
You heard that right. There is toxic mercury inside those “green” CFL bulbs. When you break a bulb, some of the mercury is released as mercury vapor into your home. Here are the regulations the EPA would like to you follow with a broken lightbulb:

Before Cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room.
  • Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
    • stiff paper or cardboard;
    • sticky tape;
    • damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
    • a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.

During Cleanup

  • DO NOT VACUUM.  Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken.  Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
  • Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
  • Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

After Cleanup

  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
  • If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.

Okay, so take everyone out of the room, turn off your heat or a/c, don’t vacuum, use tape to collect the tiny shards of glass (and potential mercury), air out the room… guess it’s time to break out the ol’ HAZMAT suit, eh?

Does any of this seem practical to you? Does any of it seem remotely “green?” Many states have laws about disposing them in your trash. In Utah, there are no specific laws (yet!) about disposal of mercury bulbs, but the Utah Health Department has this to say {emphasis added is my own}:

There is currently no Utah State or federal law requiring that mercury containing bulbs be recycled. Because these bulbs can break and seep mercury into the ground, which can pollute groundwater, we encourage residents to recycle them. If there are no facilities in your area that accept used bulbs, they can be disposed of in the garbage, however this should be a last resort if possible.

If your local waste management agency offers no other disposal options except your household garbage, place the CFLin a plastic bag and seal it before putting it in the trash. If your waste agency incinerates its garbage, you should search a wider geographic area for proper disposal options. Never send a CFL or other mercury-containing product to an incinerator.

When I found all this information out a few years back, I asked my husband to not buy anymore CFL bulbs {psst – he was on board because he ♥’s LED lights almost as much as he loves me!}. In fact, we have broken CFL bulbs, and the pain to clean them up outweighed whatever money we were saving on our utilities. So if you want to be truly green — not just “green washed”, what can you do in your home to save money and reduce your carbon footprint?

Buy these suckers:

Introducing the not-so-new LED light. LED lights have been around as long as I can remember. If you have a little pen flashlight, you probably even own an LED light. An LED is a “light emitting diode,” and traditionally they are very small lights that can be clustered together to form words or images

like a sign on the bus. But LED light technology is catching up to where it needs to be: the general population. There are now LED light bulbs available that you screw into a standard… light… socket? Is that a thing? Anyway, Home Depot has them for $10 a lightbulb. Not cheap for a 40 watt bulb, but let’s look at the highlights:

  • no mercury
  • will last an estimated 46 years (that is not a typo)
  • will cost an estimated $0.96 a year in energy costs

And hello. They aren’t freakish looking twisty bulbs and oh did I mention?

They won’t kill you.

{Okay, I know this isn’t my typical lazy-mom post, except that I refuse to clean up toxic spills after someone breaks yet another bulb. But this is something I believe strongly in. We try to purchase an LED bulb every few months and are slowly moving our home to a truly green status.}

{Except for that piece of paper I just threw away because the recycling can is all the way upstairs. I mean, a girl has got to have limits, right?}

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