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Will 2011 Bring the Great CFL Light Bulb Backlash?

Can you tell which fixture has a CFL?

Happy 2011.

While the slate is clear of a catastrophic Gulf of Mexico oil spill and Fortune firms either have or are about to report sparkling sustainability performance spikes (mainly due to flat or diminished revenue growth), hope springs eternal for an interesting year of (hopefully) inspired economic activity.

However, a less than promising trend may be percolating through the annals of cyberspace and even in print this year: The revolt against the compact fluorescent light bulb (or CFL).

As many of our readers know, the US will permanently end incandescent light bulb sales in 2014. CFLs, which are at a minimum 17% more efficient than incandescents which lose 90% of their energy to heat, will become the gold standard.

But Chicago Tribune columnist Linda Case laments the changeover, suggesting that CFLs provide too harsh of lumen as compared to the maligned, yet softer incandescents. Case presents her argument for a populist uprising against the demise of the conventional light bulb.

And perhaps she has a point; CFLs are more than adequate for commercial or exterior lighting but I too often find their tone to be binary and severe. I don’t think a revolt is the answer but rather a consumer-driven effort to push the main players — GE I am talking to you — to design better CFLs. Smaller actors like Sylvania must throw their hat in the ring too.

Let the competition begin.

Written by Lane Jost

A lifelong conservationist, angler, gardener and writer, Lane is a Corporate Responsibility strategy consultant based in Chicago, where he currently works a CR consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Prior to joining PwC, Lane was a global sustainability performance and stakeholder engagement specialist for Sodexo North America. He has experience in microfinance program evaluation at Grameen Foundation. A former President of the Net Impact Chapter at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Lane has a master's in International Development Economics from the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD (IR/PS) and a bachelor's in history and international studies from Kenyon College. Prior to working in the sustainable business sphere, Lane spent six years as a communications and marketing professional focusing on arts and culture in New York City, where his work included the creation of the jazz website gothamjazz.com and serving as the publicist for the New York Philharmonic.

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