Project Light Challenge giving away 5,000 bulbs to GH residents
Thu, Oct 2, 2008 to del.icio.us
BY PETER DAINING
Lindsey Frye is hoping to save the environment with one light bulb at a time.
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This November, Frye's bright idea to hand out free energy-efficient light bulbs to 5,000 of her Grand Haven neighbors will become a reality.
"I think people need to know they can save money and save the environment — it doesn't have to cost more," Frye said. "Everybody should be using CFLs by now. The goal is to not preach to the choir, but to talk to people who would not usually be interested in environmental issues."
Frye said switching one old incandescent bulb for a 13-watt CFL (compact fluorescent bulb) can save as much as $47 over the life of the bulb. She calculates if all 5,000 bulbs reach a lamp, the Grand Haven community could save up to $235,000 on electric bills and prevent 3.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the environment.
Frye, a Grand Haven High School graduate, came up with the idea in 2007 soon after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in environmental economics and policy.
She has presented Project Light Change to the Grand Haven City Council and the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power. Both boards were enthusiastic about her idea.
"Anything we or anyone can do to use energy more efficiently will not only save money on monthly bills, but will save all of us money on delaying the need to expand the power plant," BLP General Manager Annette Allen said.
Even the state is getting behind CFLs. Gov. Jennifer Granholm proclaimed Wednesday to be Change a Light Day. A state grant paid for a promotion at stores like Meijer and Menards to sell CFLs for as little as 99 cents this month.
Last spring, Frye got the West Michigan Environmental Action Council on board, which is now managing the project. A $100,000 grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission will support the Grand Haven pilot project and other future projects.
"We'll hopefully learn from it and develop the project further so we can bring it to other communities," WMEAC Executive Director Rachel Hood said. "CFLs are a great entryway — save your first $20 dollars and maybe you can ... invest in your next energy contribution. Maybe its a new door or a new window."
Along with handing out light bulbs door to door, Frye hopes the project shows Grand Haven residents how to safely dispose of used CFL bulbs, and highlight some other opportunities to save money and the environment at the same time.
Part of the funding will go to adding additional light bulb drop-off sites to make sure mercury from the bulbs doesn't reach landfills. Frye said Home Depot and Menards already have drop-off boxes for CFLs.
Frye said there are still a lot of misconceptions about CFL bulbs, including the mercury issue. In fact, she said more than three times more mercury is released into the environment by a 60-watt incandescent bulb compared to a 13-watt CFL — because more mercury is emitted from coal-burning power plants to power the higher wattage.
"We want to educate people that the current technology has a little mercury," said Clinton Boyd, senior scientist of the Sustainable Research Group. "People should be careful on how to dispose of them."
Frye is still hoping to raise money to cover some of the Grand Haven light bulb giveaway so the grant dollars stretch the project to Holland, Muskegon and as many other West Michigan porch lights as possible.
"That's our goal, to make this a West Michigan effort," Frye said.
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