You + CFL = Earth Day

Do just one thing for the planet: Change a light bulb

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that if every home in the U.S. installed one CFL, it would save the equivalent of 15 million tons of coal.Rite Aid, Raley’s, Lowe’s, Dollar Tree, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Albertson’s and Home Depot are just some of the stores featuring SMUD-discounted CFLs.

Last week in this space we urged support for state legislation that would phase out the use of energy-inefficient incandescent light bulbs.

Such a change would not only save energy, but also would reduce the greenhouse-gas emissions causing climate change.

But we don’t have to wait for the state Legislature to act, and we shouldn’t. With the mounting scientific evidence and daily realities indicating the severe consequences of climate change for generations to come, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. After all, what can a single individual do?

Quite a lot, as it turns out, if enough of us do it.

Imagine part of the problem this way:

Question: To help save the planet, how many Californians does it take to screw in an energy-efficient light bulb?

Answer: One. You.

Skeptical? Just consider the fact that switching one incandescent light bulb to a compact fluorescent light bulb will prevent one-quarter ton of coal from being burned to produce electricity for that lighting. That’s right, one quarter of a ton of coal. Preventing that one quarter of a ton of coal from being burned translates into stopping around 400 to 500 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions from going into the atmosphere, emissions that otherwise would hang out there and contribute to global warming for the next century or so.

In fact changing an incandescent light bulb to a compact fluorescent light is such an effective means for reducing energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions that everyone from Wal-Mart to the electric utility companies are offering substantial discounts on these compact fluorescent lights.

There’s an especially good deal to be had from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and PG&E. SMUD and PG&E negotiated with the manufacturers so that local retailers could offer the compact fluorescent lights at around 99 cents, or a bit higher for higher-wattage bulbs. There are now dozens and dozens of area retailers offering this great deal from the electric utilities. SMUD-area retailers, from Folsom and Rancho Cordova to Citrus Heights and Fair Oaks to downtown and south Sacramento, can by found online by going to: PG&E customers can find locations at

With nearly 20 percent of California’s electricity used for lighting, and 94 percent of light bulbs purchased being those highly energy-inefficient incandescent light bulbs, clearly this is one easy shift in our individual and collective actions that can make a significant difference.

So no matter what else we do or don’t do to commemorate Earth Day 2007, on Sunday, April 22, let’s all do this one thing: change a light bulb, change the world. While it’s nowhere near a total answer to the challenge of climate change, it’s a step in the right direction and one we can all take right now.