Marjorie Cortez: Shed light on Earth Day with CFL bulbs

Published: Tuesday, April 17 2007 12:43 a.m. MDT

Want to save the planet this Earth Day? Change your energy-wasting, polluting habits.

If that's too much to tackle at once, start with this: Replace your conventional light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. This is a no-brainer, people. Yes, the out-of-pocket cost is a bit more, but CFL bulbs last a long time, like 10,000 hours each. They use far less energy. The added bonus is they lower household energy costs.

Get this: If every American household replaced just one light bulb with a CFL bulb, the nation 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. Every CFL bulb eliminates more than 450 pounds of emissions from a power plant over its lifetime.

Imagine the multiplier effect if everyone, this Earth Day, replaced five bulbs. Knowing a bit about the benefits, why stop there?

This upcoming Earth Day, the Salt Lake architectural firm GSBS will lead a grass-roots effort to place CFL bulbs in homes. The architectural firm's 100 employees will each give 10 bulbs to their neighbors to encourage energy conservation and a cleaner environment.

"Over the weekend, we are sharing our commitment to sustainable society by shining a light on how each individual can do relatively simple things to help save our warming planet," GSBS President Michael Stransky said in a press release.

What a great idea. Then again, GSBS has long been a leader in sustainable architecture. Many of its most recognizable designs are LEED-certified buildings. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Designs, a rating system of the U.S. Green Building Council. Among them are the Olympic Speed Skating Oval, the renovation of the Fuller Paint building, the BLM Utah offices and the Escalante Science Center for Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

I met Stransky 14 years ago while I was working at the Deseret News business desk. The term global warming wasn't part of our public consciousness then. The first Gulf War had done little to change our thinking about crude oil and global politics. But GSBS (Gillies, Stransky, Brems and Smith), was forging ahead with sustainable designs that saved energy and other resources. These were large-scale projects. Stransky was architect-in-charge of the Tooele Consolidated Maintenance Facility. It's nine acres under one roof. The design has been recognized by the Utah chapter of the American Institute of Architects for its structural systems and use of natural light.

If anything, Stransky and his partners were well down the path of energy conservation and sustainable building techniques long before these issues became part of the national conversation. Because of that history, it does not at all surprise me that the architectural firm is taking these principles to the neighborhoods, where they will hopefully flourish.

What about those of us who don't happen to be the neighbors of people who work at GSBS? Forgo that afternoon coffee break next week and apply the savings to purchase of at least one CFL bulb. As investments go, it's a sure winner. As my days as a business reporter taught me, there are precious few of those.

Think of it as an Earth Day present to your Mother Earth. Over the long run, it will also be a kindness to your pocketbook. If you can't be motivated over the former, surely you can muster some enthusiasm for the latter.

Happy Earth Day!


Marjorie Cortez, who needs to boost the use of CFL bulbs in her home, is a Deseret Morning News editorial writer. E-mail: marjorie@desnews.com.

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