Sierra Club distributes energy-saving light bulbs

Monday, January 19, 2009 | 7:53 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — As much of the city prepared to celebrate Barack Obama's historic presidential inauguration on Tuesday, the Sierra Club and some volunteers spent time Monday afternoon to further Obama's dream of a greener future.

The nonprofit environmental group handed out compact fluorescent light bulbs to Columbia residents at J.W. "Blind" Boone Community Center on North Providence Road. The bulbs are for indoor use only and are to be used without a dimmer.

The brown bags holding the compact fluorescent light bulbs also included an Energy Star instruction manual on handling and disposing the bulbs. Scott Dye, the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels program director, said the club is grateful to Lowe's Home Improvement stores for providing the group with more than 400 compact fluorescent light bulbs at cost.

The light bulbs go a long way toward reducing mercury pollution in the air. Mercury enters the environment mainly through coal-fired power plants and enters the food system through fish, said Dye, whose program monitors water quality in 40 states in the country.

A compact fluorescent light bulb emits 1.2 milligrams of mercury from electricity use as compared to 5.8 milligrams emitted by an incandescent light bulb.

"Sometimes a can of fish can have more mercury than a compact fluorescent light bulb," Dye said.

The 13-watt compact fluorescent light bulb that was handed out on Monday replaces a standard 60-watt light bulb and can save consumers $38 over its 8,000-hour lifespan.

Seven volunteers who had signed in for Monday's event arrived long before the residents started trickling in at the center to collect the light bulbs. As the event ended at 7 p.m., most of the 406 bulbs were gone. Peyton Jordan, who came with some of her family members, lives nearby and collected bulbs for the entire family.

"It saves energy, and it saves money, too," Jordan said. "I appreciate (the Sierra Club) doing this."

One of the volunteers, who works as an inspector for the Columbia Housing Authority, said he can help install the leftover bulbs in the housing authority's units. The authority, which co-sponsored the event, had distributed fliers about the giveaway in all its 720 public housing units. The Sierra Club had also contacted three major black churches in the city to inform churchgoers of the event.

Dye said the Sierra Club is more than happy to be distributing the compact fluorescent light bulbs.

"We want to be a part of Obama's efforts to reconnect to an ethic of serving the nation," Dye said. "That's how the country was built, and that's what can solve a lot of the nation's problems. And it's a bright idea."

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