By now it’s hard to not have heard the news -- Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) are better for the environment than incandescent bulbs because they use roughly ¼ the energy, reducing emissions associated with electricity generation. On average, CFLs last about 5.5 years – but when they reach the end of useful life they should be recycled properly because they contain trace amounts of mercury. Interestingly, the mercury inside a CFL bulb is less than the amount of mercury that is produced from electricity generation that would be used in the power consumption of an equivalent incandescent bulb – see the EPA handout on CFL bulbs (the amount of mercury in a CFL bulb could fit on the tip of a ballpoint pen – a tiny fraction of the amount that are in old thermostats and thermometers).
Starting in the fall of 2006, the Bowdoin EcoReps began handing out CFL to all new students in addition to administering over 400 CFL bulbs to Bowdoin staff, students, and faculty. If you have an interest in obtaining CFL bulbs for your dorm room or office space, please contact your affiliated EcoRep or Keisha Payson.
We are asking members of the campus community that if they have a CFL bulb that dies in their office or campus dorm room to please leave a note for their housekeeper requesting that the bulb gets delivered to the Universal Waste collection area in Rhodes Hall. If a CFL bulb should break in a dorm room or office space, campus members can follow these directions for safe clean up provided by EnergyStar or the Maine Bureau of Waste Management.
While employees can not bring spent CFL bulbs from home into work for recycling, there are several local business that take part in the Efficiency Maine CFL bulb Recycling program that the general public is encouraged to utilize (Including Downeast Energy, Wal-Mart and Hancock Lumber in Brunswick). Also, many town transfer stations have collection sheds for fluorescent bulbs, as is the case at the Town of Brunswick Graham Road Landfill – contact your town office to see if they have a similar program.
Myths of CFL bulbs…
— CFLs have a harsh, cold light quality. Increasingly, this is less of an issue. Over the past few years, manufacturers have worked to provide a warmer color. Some people say they still notice a difference, but the gap is narrowing. For a warmer, white light, look for a color temperature of 2,700–3,000K on the package.
— CFLs aren't for bathrooms. Not necessarily. CFLs can work in bathrooms, but humidity may shorten the bulb's life.
— CFLs can't be used in older houses. In fact, CFLs may work better than incandescent bulbs in houses with older wiring; CFLs generate less heat and draw less electrical current.