Group urges students to use energy-efficient lighting

Britt Johnsen

A new student-group initiative announced Monday might change the way University students light their rooms and homes.

The University chapter of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group wants students to use compact fluorescent light bulbs rather than standard incandescent ones. University student and MPIRG member Brian Noy said the bulbs would save energy and money.

Though the bulbs will benefit students, the major drawback is the cost, Noy said. The fluorescent bulbs cost between $3 and $20, depending on the size, wattage and color of the bulbs.

Incandescents cost around 50 cents a piece, Noy said.

But fluorescent bulbs last longer than standard ones, he said, and because students will not have to replace them as frequently they could save as much as $50, he said.

Rick Parris, Whole Energy and Hardware owner, said fluorescent light bulbs last up to 10,000 hours, whereas a standard incandescent light bulb lasts between 750 and 1,000 hours. The Chaska, Minn.-based company manufactures the fluorescent light bulbs.

He also said the electric circuitry of the bulbs allows them to be 75 percent more energy efficient. Parris said incandescent light bulbs use more energy because they give off more heat while fluorescent light bulbs send out more light than heat.

However, he said, all fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury, which is hazardous for the environment and for health.

The amount of mercury is small enough that a standard-size bulb would not harm anyone, but large quantities of bulbs need to be disposed of in a separate place, Parris said.

Andy Phelan, assistant director for the environmental health and safety department, said mercury can damage the nervous system, liver and kidneys. He said if a fluorescent light bulb is broken, the area should be swept clean and be kept well ventilated.

Noy and four other University students and MPIRG chapters are creating a buying club for the light bulbs. The buying club is a group of students who pool their money to order the bulbs in bulk.

Noy said there are about 100 orders for the bulbs. He said if there is an order for at least 500, they can drop the price to $2.50 per bulb. Noy said the more support they get, the cheaper the bulbs will become.

First-year student Nick Zaeuschek said he would be willing to pay the extra money if it saves energy.

“It’s not that much more,” he said. “If everybody buys one, it will save energy.”

Sociology sophomore Paula Choi said she is worried about the negative effects of using the bulbs.

“It seems like the cons outweigh the pros,” she said.

Meanwhile, some other students remain skeptical.

“To be honest, I’d have to look into it more,” first-year pharmacy student Grace Kim said.

MPIRG is applying for University grants to decrease the price of bulbs. They will also use grant money to set up tables and print brochures.

Noy said he has high hopes of converting all incandescent bulbs on campus to fluorescent light bulbs. But, for now, Noy and the task force are focusing on students.

“We want to help students immediately save money,” he said.