While I’ve long been ecologically-minded, I’m the first to admit that such mindfulness hasn’t always translated into action. I recycle… largely ’cause my community makes it so darn easy. I choose Energy Star rated appliances. I’m increasingly a localvore — most of the food I buy and eat is grown in my own neighborhood… in season, anyway. Earth: we only have one.(I imagine I could do better there.)

I’d like to think that, if there’s a continuum between the conscientious and the conspicuous consumer, I lean more toward the former than the latter. But this week, just leeward of Earth Day, I want to do more. I’m going to start with the simple stuff. And what could be simpler than changing a light-bulb?

Six months ago I replaced the bulbs in the garage and the basement — two places where somebody often forgets to turn off the lights — with compact fluorescent equivalents. They’ve been absolutely problem-free, and at this point they’ve paid for themselves in energy savings. What’s more, they’re likely to last 3 to 5 times as long as incandescent bulbs.

If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR rated bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

It’s all well and good to replace utility bulbs… but what about the spaces where we live? I’m picky about lighting. Most all of my overhead lamps are on dimmers, and my table-lamps are 3-ways so I can control my lighting pretty precisely. But there’s new compact fluorescents on the market that are dimmable, and 3-way switchable, and I guess I have no more excuses. So this week I’m replacing about 1200 watts of incandescent bulbs with about 150 watts of compact fluorescents.

The cost? About $85, which will pay for itself in energy savings in a year’s time. But over the life of these light bulbs I’ll also be saving:

  • 5,500 kilowatt-hours of power generation
  • 5,000 pounds of coal to generate that power, and
  • 13,000 pounds of carbon dioxide that would have been released into the atmosphere.

Wow… talk about a light bulb moment.

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