Even when we were in school, I thought Earth Day was boring, and I still do. Despite being a rabid, frothing environmentalist, there was always something so kumbaya about the whole thing, and my only tangible memory was being a Cub Scout and having to plant little saplings outside the power plant in Cedar Rapids, IA. It was hot, we had shitty shovels that couldn’t dig a big enough hole, and honestly, I just wanted to go home and watch Mork.
It’s impossible to speak about your environmental convictions without putting your audience into a coma. I don’t mean arguments about global warming, which always descends into a slugfest if you happen to be hanging out with Republicans, I mean talking about composting and recycling and all that shit. I was recruited by SEAC (the Student Environmental Action Committee) at Carolina because they thought I could make the whole thing palatable to your average student, but it’s pretty hard to make the Dioxin Problem sexy.
That said, I thought I’d use this Earth Day to show you something:
That’s my bedside table, and yes, that’s a convertible Carolina blue Volkswagen radio/iPod player, and guess what, I’m already married so I don’t have worry what the chicks might think. More importantly, however, is the bedside table lamp, which is an LED light bulb.
It looks and behaves just like an ordinary light bulb, but is technologically ahead of both your ordinary incandescent bulb and even the new compact fluorescents. It replaced the 15-watt bulb I used to keep there (low light so I wouldn’t bother Tessa when she was sleeping) but it uses 1.4 watts. The bulb I used to have in there was rated to last 1,000 hours; the LED bulb will last 100,000.
I think that’s frickin’ awesome. I bought it here and it’s only a matter of time until LED bulbs come down in price and shoot upwards in brightness. In fact, that’s why I took this picture. It won’t be long until all lights are LED (aka solid-state, or SSL) and this was our first. Consider it a picture of a guy standing proudly next to his Model T in 1909.
Here’s the problem with new technology: the first edition of anything can ruin its reputation. For instance, CFLs – compact fluorescent lights, the twisty ones you now see at Walmart and Home Depot – spent a few years putting out ghastly, bright, blue-white light that looked like the opening scenes of “Joe Versus the Volcano.”
Those days are completely over, but it’s hard to convince anybody. I’m here to tell you that we swapped out every last incandescent bulb in our house and replaced them with CFLs, and if/when you visit, you’d never know. They come in ordinary bulb shape now, they emit a nice comforting yellow-white light, and many of them are dimmable. We get ours here (with the ordinary-looking ones here), but as long as they have a color temperature of 2800K or below, you can get them anywhere, cheaper by the day.
Sitting in our house in Los Angeles, I added up all the wattage we use for lighting, and it came to 1055 watts. After replacing them all, it came to 155 watts. 155 watts to have every light on in our entire house at once. We just lopped our lighting power bill by 85 percent, and the bulbs last around 10,000 hours.
Okay, I know several of you just fell asleep, but THAT, my friends, is SEXY. 22% of all power in America goes to lighting. Just think of the possibilities for a split second, and then you can forget about Earth Day.