Probably the most common (and cliché) "green tip" is to change out your traditional incandescent light bulbs for those curly compact fluorescent (CFL) ones. I'm sure everyone has heard this, and most of you have probably done it. You may have even noticed your electric bill go down since these bulbs use one-fifth of the energy of an incandescent (and they last 7-10 times as long).
Eventually, though, these bulbs will need to be disposed of. You've probably heard how CFLs are "full of mercury" and are "hazardous." The amount of mercury in one bulb is actually pretty small, but if you break one, the best way to clean it up is to sweep it gently into a dust pan and put it in the trash. If you use a vacuum, it could put that dust in the air.
Unbroken bulbs can actually be recycled. Since you can't put them in your curbside recycling program, you'll have to find something else to do with them. Earth911.org
is a great resource for any hard to recycle item, and some retailers have programs in place for recycling. Ikea recycles all kinds of light bulbs in its stores, but not everyone has an Ikea nearby. What is more likely is that you have a Home Depot in your area since they claim that 75% of American homes are within 10 miles of one of their big, orange stores. They recently announced they will be collecting bulbs for recycling at all of their US stores. That's great green news.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the difficulty of recycling these bulbs, but wants to keep them out of landfills. As such, they are exploring possibilities such as drop boxes at post offices.
Here at Whole Foods Market, we are also looking into light bulb recycling stations, but it's a little tricky since we sell so much food, and those bulbs are considered hazardous. We do sell CFLs in our 365 Private Label line, so stop by the dry goods aisle and pick up a few (along with 100% recycled paper towels and other paper products).
Light bulbs are a good start, but there is SO much more you can do to reduce your resource usage at home. Use "green" cleaners, properly adjust your thermostat, have your home checked for energy efficiency, etc. If everyone on the planet lived like an American, we'd need more than four planet's worth of resources to support us. Together we can make a difference!