Monday, September 15, 2008

The Burn Out

One of the easiest energy saving steps we can take at Lasell College is to make sure that students are only using compact fluorescent light bulbs in their dorm rooms. How much of a difference can this really make? Let's play with a few numbers.

Assume we have 1080 students living in residence halls. Each student has 1 desk lamp that is run for about 4 hours each night. We can say about 350 hours per semester. If all students had 75 watt incandescent light bulbs we would use about 56,700 kWh of electricity. Replace those with 75 watt equivalent 20 watt compact fluorescent bulbs and we would use about 15,120 kWh. The savings to the college would be around $5000 per year and it would reduce our carbon footprint from 130,410 lbs down to 34,776 lbs. I've given a simple scenario and likely students use more lighting than I have included.

Compact fluorescents are a great tool to save electricity. They have received some negative press in the past year though because they contain mercury. Maybe they aren't so great after all because the mercury will end up in the environment when the bulb burns out and is sent to a landfill. While mercury in CFLs is still a concern, the reality is that using a CFL prevents mercury from entering the environment. How is this possible? The biggest source of mercury in our environment is from coal fired power plants. By using a CFL, you are reducing the amount of coal that needs to be burned to generate electricity and thus helping to cut mercury emissions. Further there are now options to properly dispose of your burnt out CFL bulb to keep the mercury out of the landfills. Home Depot now offers CFL recycling at all of its stores. As we develop our recycling system at Lasell, we will need to make sure we include opportunities to recycle CFLs.

No comments: