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So you've changed your light bulbs. Now what?

By Paige Brady, July 10, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Paige Brady
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!
Category: Green Action

 

14 Comments

Comments

Jessie says ...
I wasn't aware that these bulbs contained mercury. Thanks so much for the information and tips about how to properly dispose of them. Jessie
07/10/2008 2:34:24 PM CDT
Diane says ...
Thanks for mentioning the mercury! So often that little bit of info is overlooked, and it's definitely something everyone needs to be aware of. We use these light bulbs too, and I'd love a good way to recycle them. Then I won't have to call in a Hazmat team. They're sick of me calling about my bookshelves outgassing as it is. (No, ma'am, we do NOT do formaldehyde removal.")
07/11/2008 7:42:47 AM CDT
Stacey says ...
Thanks for this post - I had no idea - guess I should read all the boxes. Now I know!
07/13/2008 10:13:09 AM CDT
Terry says ...
Thanks, I didn't realize these stores recycle CFL bulbs. Now I know!
07/13/2008 10:33:50 AM CDT
dani says ...
If a bulb breaks you can not just sweep it up. The EPA actually recommends not using a broom because it breaks up the mercury, It is recommended not to use them for table lamps because they can be tipped and broken. When you change them you should use a plastic bag when changing to help with exposure. If a bulb does break you need to hire an expert on hazzard waste to clean the mercury. Unfortunetly, this happened to a friend and it cost over a thousand dollars. I do not use them because I do not feel comfortable.. I just use the lights less to cut down on. If you use them you cannot throw them out because it would pollute the earth.
07/14/2008 10:52:45 AM CDT
Betty Curran says ...
I'm glad to know that Home Depot will recycle these bulbs. It's a great relief to know how to dispose of them.
07/14/2008 11:15:54 AM CDT
Jessica says ...
Maybe we're just buying the wrong brand, but we have not noticed an increased life in these kinds of bulbs ... in fact, just the opposite. They don't last nearly as long as the old kind of bulbs and are really expensive. Any ideas?
07/17/2008 1:20:28 PM CDT
Carrie Williar says ...
A nationwide CFL recycling program was recently implemented by The Home Depot. People needing to dispose of their old CFL bulbs can take them to their nearest store, where an associate at customer service desk will take them.
07/17/2008 3:17:28 PM CDT
Rachel Colella says ...
I thought I saw Whole Foods giving out plastic bags for customers to recycle CFLs? Is this in all the stores - I saw them in Boston. Curious as to when this recycling program started and how successful it has been for Whole Foods.
12/29/2008 3:29:53 PM CST
Kamryn says ...
Very informative. Thanks for sharing your ideas on changing the Incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent light bulbs.
08/18/2009 3:55:53 AM CDT
PC says ...
Who manufacturer's your light bulbs?
02/17/2010 9:58:49 PM CST
Jamie says ...
I was disappointed to learn that your hinsdale location recycles cfl's right next to the bakery....should be outside not by the food!!
10/28/2010 3:24:25 PM CDT
K. says ...
It's frightening how many people do not know about the mercury content of the CFL bulbs. They also do not know that halogebulbs can explode. Incandescent's - REAL incandescents - are the way to go. While we all should do our best to take care of the world God created for us to live in, we should do it individually, not through government mandate. It is definitely worth our while to maintain constant contact with our elected officials, urging them to reduce government involvement in the personal lives of individuals. We must remember that regulations make someone money, and it isn't us.
01/03/2013 9:50:23 PM CST
K. says ...
I apolize for the typos in my comment - my keyboard is skipping and because of the website menu blocking half my screen I didn't catch it. I have corrected it below - I hope! It's frightening how many people do not know about the mercury content of the CFL bulbs. They also do not know that halogen bulbs can explode. Incandescents - REAL incandescents - are the way to go. While we all should do our best to take care of the world God created for us to live in, we should do it individually, not through government mandate. It is definitely worth our while to maintain constant contact with our elected officials, urging them to reduce government involvement in the personal lives of individuals. We must remember that regulations make someone money, and it isn't us.
01/03/2013 9:53:25 PM CST