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Julie Morse Realtor Lake Forest, Illinois
Compact Fluorescent Lamp Disposal
- Clare Chang, Student Intern, University of California at Irvine
With the banning of incandescent bulbs well underway in California, and elsewhere, millions of Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) will be taking their place in residential homes, company and business buildings as the main energy light source. Yet, with all the benefits that CFLs will provide us in the future, an inevitable thought occurred to me, “How in the world will they all be recycled?”
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, roughly the size of a tip of a ball-point pen. (Compare to the amount in a traditional home thermostat, which is 100 times as much!) Unfortunately, mercury is a nerve toxin and improper disposal of fluorescent light bulbs can result in the contamination of the air, waterways, lakes, and the ocean.
Different states have different disposal rules, but starting 2006, homeowners and small businesses in California may no longer throw fluorescent light bulbs in the trash. These bulbs are now considered universal waste and must be disposed of at a household hazardous waste site.
Based on a 2004 report from LampRecycle.org, 70.8% of the mercury-lamps used by business and 98% of the lamps used in homes are not being recycled. These are terrible statistics especially considering the fact that more CFLs will be used in upcoming years.
Thankfully, there are productive actions you can take to assist in the proper recycling of CFLs:
• Check out www.earth911.com and enter your zip code to find disposal options, or call 1-877-EARTH911, the U.S. EPA’s Environmental Recycling Hotline.
• Check directly with your local waste management agency for recycling and disposal guidelines.
• Look up www.lamprecycle.org
for further information.
• Check out www.almr.org
for more information on the non-profit Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers (ALMR).
• IKEA, the home products retailer, is accepting used CFLs, as are many other retailers who are looking into take-back programs. Check their website www.IKEA.com
for a location near you.
A $20 Billion Green Initiative
The Bank of America threw its hat into the ring this week: Making Richard Branson’s historic $3 billion commitment seem small, it made a ten-year commitment to fund $20 billion of “environmentally sustainable business activity.” According to CEO Kenneth D. Lewis, "Today, we have a tremendous opportunity to support our customer's efforts to build an environmentally sustainable economy.”
For its customers, BOA will provide a range of services. It will finance LEED-certified buildings, energy efficiency improvements, and green mortgage programs. It plans an eco-credit card with proceeds going to offset carbon emissions. BOA announced the launch a carbon emissions trading unit. And through its investments, it will encourage green manufacture, while donating $50 million over the decade to non-profits and charitable works.
BOA, now headquartered in North Carolina, is the nation’s largest retail financial institution. Internally it is “walking the talk,” committing $1.4 billion to assure that all new facilities are LEED certified and launching a $100 million energy conservation program for existing facilities.
Renewable Portfolio Standards
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change reports that as of March 2007 there are 23 states that have set standards for the percentage of renewable energy delivered by electric utilities. Most states have Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Minnesota and New York lead the pack with 25% and 24% RPS requirements by 2025 and 2013 respectively. Two states – Illinois and Vermont – have non-binding goals. Recently the 27-member nation European Union took charge with new energy policies derived from a Brussels summit including a pledge to require 20% renewable by 2020.
Pew reports a number of key RPS design details. First is the definition of renewables. Some states like California exclude distributed solar projects from the standard. Some states allow utilities to purchase renewable energy credits reach compliance. And the level of renewables delivered varies by state, as do the interim goals. Texas, for example, calls for its utilities to deliver 2,000 MW of renewables by 2009 and 5,800 MW by 2015.
In California, the State’s major investor-owned utilities are working hard to achieve the accelerated 20% goal by 2010. (Originally, the target date was 2017.) After 2010, California will require the state's utilities to continue to increase its renewable portfolio by at least 1% per year. The State legislature is considering increasing the renewable standard to 33.3% by 2020. This past week, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill into law that doubles his state’s renewable energy requirement to 20% by 2020. And the State is on track: Public Service Company of New Mexico expects to meet an interim target several years ahead of schedule. Renewables currently make up 8% of its portfolio.
Bracing to Become World’s First Green Economy
According to an article in London’s Daily Mail, “drastic government plans” are being formulated that British ministers warn would mean everyone in the country will have to live, work, and travel differently. The Climate Change Bill presented in draft this week by Britain’s highest officials targets 60% reductions in CO2 by 2050. Ministers compared the scale of change necessary to the industrial revolution of the 18th century.
British homes may be required to be carbon neutral in ten years. Homeowners may be subject to mandatory home energy audits, they will have access to “hassle-free” renovations that allow them to buy now and pay later, and those who refuse to make their properties energy efficient will face financial penalties. Environment Secretary David Miliband said it would be "painful" to continue to have an energy inefficient home.
Transport will also undergo radical overhaul as Britain moves towards becoming a "low- carbon economy." The Government plans to work with the EU to set new average emissions target of 130g of CO2 per kilometer - well below most of today's models - with further reductions to follow. People will be encouraged to make more sustainable travel choices, including greater use of public transport, walking, and cycling.
Prime Minister Tony Blair and his expected Labor party successor unveiled the draft Climate Change Bill at Downing Street this week. Officials expect that the legislation will pass in April, making Britain the first country in the world with legally binding targets.
Clean Energy Investments Double
This year’s Clean Energy Trends Report, an annual “snapshot” of clean energy trends by the Portland-based Clean Edge, finds that venture capital investment in U.S. companies developing alternative energy technologies more than doubled last year to an all-time high of $2.4 billion. According to the report, high oil prices caused investors to seize on the promise of ethanol and other bio-fuels. Potential government carbon caps have also created an impetus for the investment growth.
Venture capital investments in bio-fuels such as ethanol and bio-diesel surged from $20.5 million in 2005 to $813 million last year. Clean Edge said the worldwide clean energy market in four technologies – bio-fuels, wind, solar PV, and fuels cells and distributed hydrogen -- grew from $40 billion in 2005 to $55 billion last year. It also projected that the market would grow to $226 billion by 2016. That rate of growth, the report said, compares to growth rates in the nascent computer, wireless and Internet industries.