For the second week in a row the Guardian has turned the power of the internet onto the problems of the planet - at this rate, it surely can't be long before we're all saved. Last week editor Alan Rusbridger unleashed 15 million readers on Africa; this week environment writer Leo Hickman is trying to shut down coal-fired power …
Where do all the old lightbulbs go?
assuming I switch all my bulbs to "energy saving" ones a couple of questions are raised...
1) The new bulbs take a lot more power to manufacture
2) how many landfill sites will be filled with old bulbs, as I'm damn sure the local recycling facility doesn't have a section for light bulbs
3) The new bulbs are filled with a nice toxic powder, so they'll need special treatment when they die, which by all accounts is a lot sooner than the claims made on the box.
Savings need to be made at industries, not at home
If the Tesco store down the road didn't leave it's lights on all night, it would probably save enough electricity for the whole street to use space heatings on their patios...
Graun feeling guilty?
The Graun is one of the worst offenders for promoting rampant consumerism and then pretends to have a conscience about it all.
It is a true child of the 80s - it knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Re: Graun feeling guilty?
I fear the Graun may not be feeling particularly guilty. There is currently a substantial amount of advertising spend available in the 'green' publishing sector, and even the most altruistic of publishers will have difficulty avoiding having fivers pressed on them whenever they say the G word. So I expect it's feeling ambivalent, at least. (-:
Enjoy the ride
Global warming, Peak Oil, Asian Bird Flu. It's all down hill from here.
Tonight we dine in hell.
What I'd like to know is why you can't get hold of more LED lighting?
LEDs are sufficiently small that they'll fit in any existing bulb size, surely?
why should I bother to stop ....
urinating on the dying woman, if everyone will continue regardless?
Hmm, a tricky ethical problem indeed.
Don't you hate stupid people?
Long life light bulbs *save* you money - because they use fewer resources to produce than the 8 incandescents they replace, and, mostly, because they use vastly less energy.
Yes, they contain about 4mg of mercury. That turns out to be less than coal fired power stations emit generating the extra electricity incandescents require.
So mock all you want, but if you're not using long life light bulbs you're simply throwing your money away. And needlessly messing up the environment all the while.
Or look at it like this: the pay-back time of investing in a long-life bulb is about 9 months. So using incandescents is just taking a bet with yourself that you'll die within 9 months.
Forgive my ignorance
But aren't these energy-saving lighbulbs nothing more than flourescent tubes folded over on themselves like some Escherian nightmare? The ones that emit the cold white light that makes your front room feel like a dole office or hospital?
What percent of total carbon emissions are caused by domestic lights? Where does this fit in the grand scheme of things such as cars, trains, planes, factories, printing presses, etc?
Thanks for saying what I was about to. You saved me the bother of commenting.
Well at least comments don't pollute. I mean...my computer was on anyway.
*turns down brightness a couple of notches*
If I were the Guardian ...
I wouldn't be encouraging people to ask how many Guardian readers it takes to change a lightbulb.
Re: Forgive my ignorance
Electricity consumption, nationwide, is about 18% of the UK's energy use. Domestic lighting must be, er, quite a bit less. Domestic heating is vastly larger, as is industry.
About 50 or 60% of the UK's carbon footprint is caused by such fixed infrastructure. Being fixed, it could all be replaced (as an when it comes up for refurbushment) with something that runs on electricity. This requires no new technology, nor any pre-emptive scrapping of stuff that still works. It would therefore cost almost nothing and we could start now and see a 50 or 60% reduction in our carbon emissions by (say) 2050. Even the IPCC would be happy with that. This presumes, of course, that all new electricity generation is zero-carbon. But we know how to do *that* as well.
Carbon offsets, of a sort...
There's one problem that keeps niggling at me.
All of the energy-saving-bulb advocates stress that, because the bulbs use less electricity than incandescents do, that there is a net energy savings.
Now, I live in a location that is currently heading into four to five months of "freeze-your-ass-off". This is a time when (because of my cheap-ass landlord) ANYTHING that puts an extra 65 - 90 watts of heat into my apartment is a good thing, in my opinion. Under normal winter conditions, does the energy saved in not generating the heat in an incandescent bulb get eaten up again in keeping the furnace on for the extra few seconds needed to reach a given temperature?
I switched over to ESBs this past summer. Maybe I should add swapping between incandescents and ESBs to the "checking the smoke detector batteries" ritual at Daylight-Saving Time changeovers...?
Of LEDs and heat substitution
LEDs are actually not much more efficient than incandescent bulbs for domestic lighting at the moment. They are great for torches, bike lamps etc because small incandescent bulbs are a lot less efficient than bigger ones and because the colour balance of the light they emit works better for night vision. Better LEDs may be on the way, but they aren't for sale yet. For efficiency, straight fluorescent tubes rule.
The heat given off by an incandescent bulb may help warm your house, yes, but it's a lot less efficient to burn fossil fuel in a power station, make electricity (subject to a thermodynamic efficiency limit) and run that across the grid to your house than it is to just burn the fossil fuel in your (condensing) boiler. In any case I think it's been shown that bulbs only really warm the ceiling, not the room as a whole, so you're getting less heat from them than you think.
easy to mock
It's easy to mock, but the Guardian does more to cover important environmental issues in a useful way than any other paper. Yes, these campaigns are a bit pathetic, but the Guardian Weekly (international edition of the paper) ran a large section on the politics of food recently - sounds dull, but probably the single *most* important political / environmental issue of the next couple of decades. It would help if rather a lot more people understood how destructive so-called 'green' food-based fuel sources are. They also dared to raise the taboo point that no moderate measures are going to be enough to prevent a massive period of environmental disasters if the current rate of population increase continues unabated. These are not topics that you will generally find much debated in the Daily Mail, but they're rather important.
if you want to contribute significantly to the sustainability of the human race in general - use energy saving light bulbs. also don't turn the lights *on* unless absolutely necessary, unplug all electrical equipment when not in use, don't drive, walk all journeys under a mile in length, buy raw food by preference (produced locally if possible) and prepare it yourself, don't use the dishwasher, handwash clothes where possible and use the washing machine only on cold water setting if you need to use it, compost, recycle, mend old clothes rather than buy new ones where possible, and in general attempt not to buy anything you don't actually *need*. if everyone in western countries took that approach, we could go on spawning for quite a lot longer. if you want to carry on using far more power than the human race can sustainably provide with current technology and the resources available to us, producing far more waste than we ultimately have the ability to remove, and indirectly contributing to the starvation of large sections of the world population - go ahead. just don't have any kids, or at least, don't condition them to expect the same privileges you currently enjoy, because they won't.
why should I bother to stop
Nice one AC, I was going to say "When there's a flood coming under the door it's a good idea to stop pissing on the floor" but I like your new version better.
Yes, that's right: MERCURY. Get these wretched imitation lightbulbs, ruin your eyes with peering at dimly lit print AND POLLUTE THE PLANET WITH MERCURY which is found in dangerous amounts in fluorescents.
Instead of putting out a little perfectly harmless CO2.
The Guardian as usual is advocating feelgoodery which will either have no effect on the supposed problem, or make it worse. Do not listen. Do not either buy one of these wretched cars with more lead acid batteries (LEAD, get it?). Do not buy a green electric bicycle either. Stop trying to save the planet. You are just making things worse!
So easy to mock Grauniad and its readers
Grauniad: "free green shopping bags" - consume don't consume don't consume don't consume don't consume don't consume don't consume. Sometimes hypocrisy is worth the price of a copy.
Grauniad Weekly "also dared to raise the taboo point that no moderate measures are going to be enough to prevent a massive period of environmental disasters if the current rate of population increase continues unabated... if you want to contribute significantly to the sustainability of the human race in general...".
Apart from falsely linking two things together for which there is no scientific justification, the question is: Well do you or dont you? Want to sustain the human race, or to do something about population increase?
Grauniad readers racist? Or thick? Not when you have the Daily Mail and its readers to point your fingers at (just as you say).
@Don't you hate stupid people?
> Long life light bulbs *save* you money - because they use fewer resources to produce than the 8 incandescents they replace, and, mostly, because they use vastly less energy.
Amazing how some can't see the wood for the trees. It's NOT just about the alleged shiny end benefits: what about the more polluting manufacturing and disposal processes?
> Yes, they contain about 4mg of mercury. That turns out to be less than coal fired power stations emit generating the extra electricity incandescents require.
Over what time and under what loading? Oh well, whatever; if it's only about 4mg per bulb then it *must* be Ok - apart from the minor detail of an increase in the production of mercury required to feed those tens of thousands of planet-saving devices and all the extra pollution THAT little game will generate. Mercury isn't all they contain which is worth worrying about: there's a small circuit board in there with a bundle of components which will doubtless end up on some tip in China along with old PC circuit boards for peasants to scrabble over and die from poisoning by some exotic metal. Still, so long as it's not being done in *our* yard...
> So mock all you want, but if you're not using long life light bulbs you're simply throwing your money away. And needlessly messing up the environment all the while.
Yes indeed - with compact flourescent bulbs you get to save money by creating an even BIGGER environmental mess, AND they can't be dimmed, AND they're slower to reach a decent brightness in a slightly cold environment. What a bargain.
"Apart from falsely linking two things together for which there is no scientific justification"
um, what are the two things? Population growth and environmental damage? I think you'll find there's a gigantic body of science linking those two things together. I'm not talking even about nebulous concepts like 'global warming' here, just simple common sense stuff - the more people there are, the more damage is done to natural environments, the more species are made extinct due to simple lack of sufficient habitation space, the more we need to do nasty things to the landscape in order to procure the raw materials required to produce the energy we all use.
"the question is: Well do you or dont you? Want to sustain the human race, or to do something about population increase?"
pick one or the other.
if you want to go on living the way most people in 'the developed world' currently do - figure out a way to make sure the population definitely grows no *larger* and, preferably, gets smaller. If you want the population to keep on growing - you need to cut your environmental and energy impact drastically. The stuff I mentioned in my post was not, to most people, 'moderate measures'. When I wrote 'moderate measures' I was talking about stuff like using energy saving light bulbs and buying 'green' things. The actual example actions I mentioned would be, to most people, radical (just try suggesting to most people that they should give up their car and stop flying on holiday and they look at you like you just grew an extra head...you'd never believe that only the last two generations of humanity, in a few privileged countries, have been accustomed to doing these things).
Re: easy to mock
"if you want to contribute significantly to the sustainability of the human race in general ... [snip, list of lifestyle changes] ... if everyone in western countries took that approach, we could go on spawning for quite a lot longer."
So let's see now, the politicians can either succeed in persuading every man, woman and child in the western world to make major changes in their personal lifestyle, as you suggest, or they can engage in a few prestigious engineering projects and quietly change the rules of the market so that infrastructure decisions over the next 30 years tend to replace fossil fuels with electricity, as I suggested.
Which do you think is easier? Which is more likely? Indeed, given the choice, which would you rather happened?
>Amazing how some can't see the wood for the trees. It's NOT just about the alleged shiny end benefits: what about the more polluting manufacturing and disposal processes?
Do you know how much energy is used to manufacture them? Surely the glass would be the most energy-intensive part as it needs to be heated up so much? There is more glass in 6 normal bulbs than 1 CFL. Also, if you can buy them for about the same (or less than) 6 normal bulbs (tesco, wilko etc. sell CFLs for about 80p) then the materials and energy in is almost certainly lower than the other bulbs (CFL technology is covered by patents, so that will eat into some of the cost).
As for disposal/recycling - that's why we have the WEEE directive... Many of the new WEEE sites for householders will take CFLs and ensure they are disposed of/recycled safely. If this is not happening then the law needs to be tightened, but that's (yet) another issue for the politicians. *sigh*
> Yes, they contain about 4mg of mercury. That turns out to be less than coal fired power stations emit generating the extra electricity incandescents require.
Quick calc - http://igs.indiana.edu/geology/coalOilGas/mercuryInCoal/index.cfm says ~0.02mg mercury per kg coal. So 20 kg of coal would be needed.
http://science.howstuffworks.com/question481.htm says coal has an energy content of 6150kWh/ton, so 123kWh saved = 4mg mercury (assuming 100% conversion efficiency!)
Using standard figures taken from the side of the packet, for sake of argument:
Normal lightbulb = 100W x 1000h/year = 100kWh/year
CFL = 20W x 1000h/year = 20kWh/year
Saving = 80kWh/year (~£8)
So just over 18 months of use to "pay back" the mercury, if all of the energy in coal is converted to electricity (more like ~35% in the UK, rarely over 45% anywhere)
>Yes indeed - with compact flourescent bulbs you get to save money by creating an even BIGGER environmental mess, AND they can't be dimmed, AND they're slower to reach a decent brightness in a slightly cold environment. What a bargain.
Dimmable versions are available, eg: http://www.megaman.cc/global/products/product.php?sid=17
Warm up time depends on the bulb... Old ones used to be rubbish (even as recently as 6/7 years ago), but most new ones are fine. As with colour temperature - you get what you pay for. Bearing in mind Philips own a lot of patents on the technology, they'd be a good starting point for a decent bulb...
And yes they do last for years - some in my house have been going for the past 7 years without problems.
"Yes indeed - with compact flourescent bulbs you get to save money by creating an even BIGGER environmental mess [...]"
How so? In my house I used to replace incandescent bulbs at a rate of at least one per month. After switching to ESBs nearly two years ago, I have yet to replace a single one. In fact I'm not likely to need to for another 6-8 years.
The manufacturing process probably does need some improvement but as demand for ESBs increases so does the motivation to improve efficiency. Potentially harmful substances may also eventually be eliminated (if not by market forces then by legislation, as with lead in petrol).
But the thing about ESBs is that they are an easy first "green" step for a lot of people. They have a tangible benefit to the end user in reduced electricity bills, not to mention hardly ever having to change them. (Which should have a nice side bonus of reducing the number of injuries from people falling off step ladders, chairs, tables etc.)
And so more and more people get used to the concept of reducing their impact on the planet, leading to other steps like not using plastic carrier bags, increasing domestic insulation, switching TVs off at the wall, making energy efficiency ratings a priority when buying new appliances etc. This spreads to the workplace where people realise their PC can hibernate overnight instead of staying on, switching off lights at night and so forth. To really reverse the impact we've had on the planet, as Adam Williamson has pointed out, takes massive cultural changes that won't happen overnight. But if we don't make the small changes now, the big ones will never happen.
@@BitTwister & @Fenwar
Like I said, it's not ALL about reducing energy. That's just simplistic. If it cost, say, 1/10 of the going rate to run a device which creates a much bigger environmental issue during its manufacturing or disposal process - you'd buy it on the assumption that technology would 'probably' catch up and deal with the messy side-issues? That would make domestic financial sense but has nothing to do with being 'green'.
The information for the "dimmerable" (yech!) types you link to says: "Better yet, it works perfectly on most incandescent dimmer circuits and switches without a transformer". Ah; just "most", then. That's unfortunate but at least it seems to be a step in the right direction as regards direct replacement. (and for the record, I'm not completely against all this stuff. I'm just tired of hearing about energy consumption as the be-all and end-all of 'being green'. That just sweeps background issues under the carpet.)
> How so?
During the manufacturing and disposal process, that's how. A lower domestic energy consumption is but one aspect of how 'green' something is alleged to be, despite how the media like to present it.
> I used to replace incandescent bulbs at a rate of at least one per month.
Blimey. You're using the wrong brand? The tungsten-type incandescents I've used (and still use) have lasted several years - even those regularly switched on & off many times during the day. I can't think of any here which have failed within the first year, and even have a few which have been running for more than 5 years. One is approaching its 10th birthday - all in regular daily use.
I'm still worried about .....
.... the approaching ice age. We've bad so many cold winters and North Sea gas is due to run out by 1972.