Category Archives: Eco Consciousness

Why I’ll never buy another compact fluorescent light bulb

cflFarewell compact fluorescent light bulbs. You served us well. Rest in peace.

I remember 25 years ago I was working for a solar company (Real Goods) and we sold some of the first compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs that were ever made. They had a big wide base that made them hard to fit in most fixtures. They flickered. They took a while to come on. And they cost $25 each. Still, they used 75% less power than a regular light bulb and since we were one of the only places to obtain these energy efficient bulbs, people called us regularly to have them shipped by mail to their residence. Even at $25 a pop, they paid for themselves.

My how things have changed! CFLs fill the shelves of Walmart and the grocery stores and they’re about a buck a piece. It’s getting hard to even find the old type of energy-hog bulbs.

It’s great to see CFLs take over, and a lot less energy is being wasted as a result. But CFLs are not perfect. They contain mercury and are supposed to be disposed of properly but many of them end up in the landfill. Along with the lower price, the quality has suffered on some of the cheaper units and they don’t always last as long as predicted. They still have issues coming on to full brightness. They don’t work great in cold temperatures.

All along many of us have been waiting for the next type of light bulb to emerge – LEDs. A few years ago they started to show up in stores but they were $20 a piece. More than I was willing to fork out, even to try a test.

IMG_20130418_183648But LEDs are now here. The price has come down enough for me and I’ve purchased a few and tested them out over long term and i’m 100% convinced. I’ll never buy another CFL light bulb.

LEDs are twice as efficient as CFLs. That means they use half the energy to make the same amount of light, so they save even more energy and money. They last more than twice as long as CFLs, and the indicators are that they really do live up to their lifetime ratings. It’s hard to tell yet because the lifetime is 25,000 hours and you’d have to use a bulb for 22 years at 3 hours per day before that time comes up. They come on instantly, even in cold temperatures. The brightness and light quality is superb. And, they contain no mercury. They beat CFLs in every category.

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LED lights at Costco

I shop at Costco and they now have a very large selection of LED lights at only $5 each (with instant rebate). Every time I go there I pick up a few and I’ve been replacing my CFLs as they burn out (often prematurely) and now my house has about half LEDs. I find they are far superior to CFLs for all the reasons I’ve listed. I encourage you to join me and try out an LED light bulb if you haven’t already. You may very well agree, and never buy another CFL again.

LED lights at Costco

LED lights at Costco

Here in Vermont you can find LED lights for $5 or less in Home Depot, Costco, online and other many local hardware stores. There’s a state rebate, so your state hopefully has some discounts as well. Try one out and see what you think!

Cheers,
Gary Beckwith


Gary Beckwith is an eco-blogger and driver of the Solar Bus. He can be reached at gary(at)solarbus.org.

How Eco-Cool is Costco?

I’ve been shopping at Costo for a while now. I like the larger quantities (less trips to the store) and low prices. I’ve read they have good policies, benefits, and low turnover rates for employees. And they have more and more organic and environmental products every time I go there. On 4/25/13, I drove there in my veggie-oil powered car, and as I shopped I thought, why not take a few pictures and share the info with others who are making an effort to shop with eco-consciousness in mind….

Costco Vermont

This is my local Costco. It’s the only one in the state of Vermont. It’s not the biggest by any means. No gas pumps like some of the bigger ones have.

The first thing I noticed was a HUGE new display of LED lights.

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This was great to see. LEDs are even more efficient than compact fluorescents (CFLs), they last longer, and thy have no mercury. We’ve been waiting for LEDs to hit the market and it appears the time has come!

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I found almost a whole aisle of LED lights, including flood lights, regular bulbs, and others. Note the bulbs are in a display where you can see how bright they are and the quality of the light.

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There was even an instant rebate, making most of the bulbs cost only about $5.  I’d say this alone is a reason to head over there and try out their new LED lights. Thumbs up!

I put a few in my cart and moved along. Next up I came to a real downer. A huge pile of cases of bottled water.

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I saw a bunch of people grabbing a case or two and putting in in their cart. What’s up with that? Haven’t people figured out yet, most bottled water is the same thing that comes out of your tap for free, but you have to pay for it and you end up with a bunch of plastic no one wants? Not to mention your water tastes like plastic. Thumbs down on this one!

Next I made my way to the food section. Surprisingly I came across a stack of cases of unfiltered Switchback beer, made here in Vermont. Nearly everyone I know seems to love this beer. It’s good to see local products in a chain store. Thumbs up!

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Sometimes when I’m out shopping for my family, I think about the hunters and gatherers from thousands of years ago and I pretend I’m one of them. My family is home safe in their “cave” and I’m out gathering, risking my life just like the cavemen did. The only difference is they were pulling berries off bushes and throwing spears at wild beasts, while I’m pulling products off shelves… Pretty much the same thing, eh?

Anyway next I came to something interesting. Not sure what these “Hemp Hearts” are. But anything made from hemp is good in my book. It has so many uses, from paper to fuel to medicine to food. It’s good to see more hemp products on the market. These are “raw shelled hemp seeds” according to the package. I was tempted but decided to let others be the guinea pigs. Maybe next time. Still they get a thumbs up.

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Not in pictures, but in my cart and worth mentioning are:

  • Organic, free-range, certified humane eggs. Recycled cardboard would be better than plastic on the packaging, though.
  • Case of soymilk, organic, non-GMO, half the price of grocery stores!
  • Good organic free-trade coffee, costing less than Starbucks (non-organic)
  • Case of organic apples from Washington state… but too much plastic packaging.

Then I came to another surprise… an area rug made out of 100% recycled materials! They look strong and well-made. Now I didn’t need such a rug, but if I did, I’d buy one. This is great to see. I always wonder where all those plastic jugs go when the recycling company picks them up. Well here’s the answer. Big thumbs up for recycled products!

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I made my way to cashier where I didn’t take a photo but I did experience one of the most environmentally cool things about shopping at Costco. NO BAGS! They don’t ask, “paper or plastic?” because they don’t have either one. They will put your stuff in boxes that are leftover from packaging, or just loosely back into your cart. I usually ask for a box for the little stuff. So many bags are used and wasted and disposed of every day in our country. Why can’t every store do this? Just go BAGLESS! Who needs them? Kudos to Costco for having not a bag in sight. THUMBS UP on that one! Here’s my cart as I wheeled back to my car. Not a bag to be seen.

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Overall, I give Costco a thumbs up for Eco-Coolness. Some good and unique products on their shelves that show a commitment to the environment. But there are some issues to work on, like the bottled water and some of the product packaging has too much plastic.

I hope this post encourages people to shop with an Eco-Coolness mindset, at all stores. If there’s a Costco in your town, maybe you want to check it out. If you found a cool new product, let others know about it (comment below!). And don’t forget, you don’t have to wait for your store to go bagless. Even if you forgot your cloth shopping bags, just put the stuff back in your cart with no bag. Who needs bags anyway?

Cheers,
Gary