Worried About the Mercury in Compact Fluorescent Bulbs?

cfl-bulb-recycleThis is an update of an article I wrote for another blog in 2008:

Everyone knows that switching out your light bulbs to CFL saves money, but many people are concerned about the mercury in them.

According to John Balbus, M.D., Chief Health Officer at Environmental Defense, CFLs contain less mercury than was in the old-fashioned mercury thermometers. And even broken, he says the exposure rate is about equivalent to a “can or two” of tuna fish.

In addition, when compared to the total life cycle of incandescent bulbs, from production to the amount of energy from a coal-burning plant needed to power the bulb over its life, CFLs are responsible for far less mercury in our environment. According to Popular Mechanics:

Approximately 0.0234 mg of mercury—plus carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide—releases into the air per 1 kwh of electricity that a coal-fired power plant generates. Over the 7500-hour average range of one CFL, then, a plant will emit 13.16 mg of mercury to sustain a 75-watt incandescent bulb but only 3.51 mg of mercury to sustain a 20-watt CFL (the lightning equivalent of a 75-watt traditional bulb). Even if the mercury contained in a CFL was directly released into the atmosphere, an incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime.

But even if there is less mercury used in the total production, the CFLs do have a small amount mercury inside each bulb. Clearly, we want to avoid throwing spent bulbs into the regular garbage where they can easily break and end up in our landfills. Yet it can be inconvenient to collect the used bulbs for delivery to Miami-Dade’s Home Chemical disposal sites.

This is why Ikea, Home Depot and Lowes have set up light bulb recycle programs in their stores. The Environmental Coalition of Miami and the Beaches (ECOMB) has also set up a drop-off collection site at its offices: 210 2nd St, Miami Beach. (They ask that you call first if dropping of CFLs, batteries or ewaste.) And to make recycling your compact fluorescent lighting really easy, Smart At Bulbs offers free pick-up in the Greater Miami area.

Industries have been recycling mercury for years. Now with easy options like those noted above, consumers can too. We can all make the switch to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs with less worry about mercury in our environment.

Post-Katrina New Orleans Experiments With Largest Solar Power Neighborhood In Southeast

Back in early 2008, I wrote about Brad Pitt’s “Make It Right” foundation.  “When Brad Pitt visited New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward two years after Hurricane Katrina, he was shocked by the lack of rebuilding progress in this historic, working class community. Many worried the plight of the neighborhood would be forgotten. In a bold move, Pitt committed to help rebuild in the hardest hit area of the city.” To date in New Orleans, “Make It Right” has built 87 of the planned 150 homes with green features such as no-VOC paints and flooring and ENERGY STAR® appliances. Many of the homes also have solar panels. Now, New Orleans is the location of another solar powered housing development experiement:

Largest Solar Power Neighborhood In Southwest Built In New Orleans(via Clean Technica)

  The St. Thomas Housing Project had been a somewhat rundown low-income housing project before Hurricane Katrina hit, known primarily for its high crime rate. But now, the area has become the focus of several government agencies working to revitalize it through sustainable and renewable technologies…

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An Evening at the Palms Hotel & Spa – USGBC Miami

This past Wednesday, I joined my fellow members of the US Green Building Council – Miami chapter – for “An Evening at the Palms Hotel & Spa”. Beginning the evening at the on-site Organic Chef’s Garden for a tour and tasting, we then convened in Queen Palm (one of nine meeting rooms available at the hotel) for the “Inspired by Nature” program. We ended with a tour of the hotel and spa.

The Palms, located at 3025 Collins Avenue on Miami Beach, was originally built in the 1960’s and purchased by Hans-Joachim and Ursula Krause in the early 1990’s, going through several name changes over the years. Still owned and operated by the Krause’s and their daughters, Nicola Meyer and Katja Janzon, the Palms underwent a 20 million dollar renovation in 2008 – 2009 that incorporated green features and a shift to green operational practices.

Their philosophy statement says, “Nature is what inspires everything we do at The Palms Hotel & Spa, from the décor to products & services offered to our core company values. Our commitment to preserving the environment and to care for the world we live is expressed in all elements of our guest experience, and beyond into the local community.” Tanja Morariu’s presentation illustrated how the philosophy is applied throughout the hotel.

Currently, 85% of the lighting has been retro-fitted to LED and they expect to have 95% completed by the end of 2013. They have also installed motion sensors for the lighting in administrative offices and other non-guest areas plus centralized lighting/heating efficiency controls. Next year, the east windows will be replaced with energy-saving engineered glass.

So far, one-third of their toilets are dual-flush and using grey water. The eco-friendly commodes have sinks on top of the tanks for hand washing. The used water then drains into the toilet tank for the next flush. The luxurious “rain” shower heads and faucets are low flow at 1.5 GPM. Guests also have the option to re-use their towels and linens during their stay, thereby conserving approximately 7 gallons of water plus electricity from extra laundering.

The hotel has recycling bins available throughout the hotel, including in all guests rooms, allowing for cardboard, plastic, paper and metal to be recycled. Batteries and light bulbs are kept out of the landfills; and the hotel allows employees to bring these types of items from home for proper disposal through the hotel.

The staff cafeteria uses no disposable items. When an employee is hired, they are given their own beverage bottle (which are also for sale in the gift shop). This initiative alone saves the hotel about $10,000 per year in addition to being great for the environment.

Hotel staff uses Green Seal cleaning supplies, no aerosol at all, and 100% post-consumer recycled paper with soy ink when available. Even the pens provided in the meeting room were partly made of recycled cardboard. Dry cleaning and laundry services are all green certified as well.

Attesting to their commitment to community as well as the environment, the Palms donates “mildly used” soaps, shampoos, towels, linens and paper items to Camillus House and http://www.cleantheworld.org/
The Palms also maintains the stretch of beach in front of the hotel through the Adopt-A-Beach program sponsored by the City of Miami Beach and ECOMB (Environmental Coalition of Miami & the Beaches), and participates in coastal clean-up projects throughout the year. http://ecomb.org/programs/litter-prevention/adopt-a-beach-program/

In 2011, the Palms Hotel & Spa won the Miami Chamber of Commerce Sustainable South Florida Award in the Green Practices Category. They have also been recognized as one of only 17 Miami Beach hotels to receive Florida’s Green Lodging Program designation and have achieved a 3-key rating through the Canadian-based International Green Key Eco-Rating Program. http://www.greenkeyglobal.com/default.asp

Tomorrow: The Palms Essensia Restaurant, Chef Julie Frans and her wonderful organic garden

Green Walls at Edmonton International Airport in Alberta Canada

What are “green walls”? Sometimes called “living walls” or “vertical gardens”, they aren’t your classic ivy covered wall. In short, it is any type of verticle container that attaches to a wall, allowing plants to grow without having their roots in the ground. Green walls can be used inside or outside the building. They can help reduce temperatures in the buildings, as well as improve air quality. And for the urban gardener, it is a great use of space!

Glenn Myers brings us another great guest post with photos of the green walls at the Edmonton International Airport in Alberta Canada.

Looking Closely at Green Walls in Alberta (via Green Building Elements)

Matt Mirandi has sent us some information on green walls featured on ecomagination and created by Green Over Grey. He introduces the subject with convincing written parlance: “Green walls are awesome.  They’re art; they help promote relaxation and healing, reduce indoor pollution (and noise…

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Four Environmental Innovations That Have Revolutionized Architecture – Guest Post

Guest Post: Four Environmental Innovations That Have Revolutionized Architecture (via Green Building Elements)

The green revolution has impacted almost every sector of the economy. Now, eco-friendly technology is revolutionizing the way we think about architecture. Every part of the architectural process is undergoing huge changes. When people think of green architecture, they often picture simple modifications…

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Europe Installed Two-Thirds of the World’s New Solar Power in 2011

In 2011, the United States ranked 31st for “Total New Solar Power per Million People”, while Florida ranked 17th in the country. However, according to SEIA’s “U.S. Solar Market Insight Report 2011 Year-in-Review”:

“2011 was a historic year. On the positive side, the market for solar installations continued to boom, as the U.S. installed 1,855 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic (PV) solar systems, representing 109% growth over 2010.”

Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, Belgium, and Spain topping the list of “Total Installed Solar Power per Capita.” Add France and the United Kingdom to the same list for countries with the most new installations in 2011.

Here is a great article by Nathan over at Clean Technica discussing Europe’s solar power edge:

Europe Installed Two-Thirds of the World’s New Solar Power in 2011 (via Clean Technica)

  Two-thirds of newly installed solar power capacity in 2011 was in Europe, or 18.5 GW. Europe’s total solar power capacity now totals 52 GW. That’s enough electricity to power a country with the energy demands of Austria, which is 2% of the European Union’s total electricity needs. The European…

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Would You Live Here? 5 Remarkable Recycled Homes

Years ago, a friend and I were talking about our “dream homes”. Mine was a decommissioned small church or chapel because I’ve always loved the architectual elements found in them. It looks like someone else had the same idea as seen in #4 on Glenn Myers’ list of “5 Remarkable Recycled Homes”.

Which one is your favorite?

5 Remarkable Recycled Homes (via Green Building Elements)

A number of innovative structures have been created using materials that might otherwise have been destined for the landfill. Here are five examples of what we’ve found, thanks to the The Daily Green, Flavorwire, and Design Buzz. 1. New Life for a Grain Silo House  2. House of Bottled Dreams 3.…

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There’s an App for That: The Kill A Watt Energy Meter

OK, so it isn’t actually an application for our smart phones. But who doesn’t love a good gadget, too?

The Kill A Watt Energy Meter: A green gadget lover’s dream (via Green Building Elements)

The Kill A Watt Energy Meter is a simple and remarkably useful device for revealing how much appliances are costing you to operate. A few experiments with one of these meters have saved me hundreds of dollars in energy waste and hundreds more in unnecessary appliance upgrades that I probably otherwise…

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How To Make Your House Greener

Guest Post by Liam Ohm (via Green Building Elements)

It’s becoming increasingly important to make your house greener. Benefits include helping the environment by cutting down on the amount of CO2 emissions released from your home, as well as committing to recyclable materials. At the same time, it’s possible to make your house greener by cutting back on bad habits when it comes to using power, while keeping an eye on the kind of products that you use. By doing so, you can make a contribution to environmental health. These approaches, and more, are detailed below:

Melanie Dawn Miami LEED Platinum Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove – LEED Platinum Home


Solar Panels

More and more people are installing solar panels on the roofs of their homes. Photovoltaic cells generate energy from the sun, and provide a clean alternative to the electricity taken from the National Grid. Tax and tariff incentives are also available for those that invest in solar panels.

Green Roofs

A green roof involves planting vegetation on a layer on top of your home. The vegetation releases valuable oxygen into the atmosphere, while the roof is waterproofed to prevent damaging the structure of your home.

Switching Off Lights

One of the simplest habits that can be followed for a greener home, switching off lights when not in use, and switching older bulbs for eco-friendly ones, as well as investing in LED lights, can save you money and cut down on electricity usage. Dimmer switches can similarly be used to reduce dependence on high energy light bulbs, while automatic lights can turn themselves off when no motion is detected in a room.


Window blinds can provide environmental benefits for your home through UV protection layers, which repel the harmful effects of the sun. At the same time, blinds available in recyclable materials like honeycomb can reduce the amount of plastic in your home.

Avoiding Dryers

If possible, avoid using a tumble drier for your clothes, and instead invest in indoor racks for your home. Doing so will save you electricity, and can be particularly effective on hot and windy days.

Use Eco Cleaning Products

Switching the brands of your cleaning products can have a positive effect on the eco friendliness of your home. Choosing eco brands that don’t contain damaging chemicals or release gases into the atmosphere is particularly recommended.


A simple task to follow: you can boost your home’s environmental rating by sticking to a recycling schedule. This can mean sorting through plastic, paper, and glass, as well as creating a compost heap for food, tea bags, and coffee grounds.

Don’t Overuse Heat

Don’t leave your heating on for more than you need it for. Turning down your heating, or switching it off altogether in the Spring and the Summer, is usually a good idea.

Don’t Build Up Plastic

Try to cut down on the amount of useless plastic that you have around your home. This might be represented by old plastic bags, which can be recycled, and replaced by bags for life.


You can wash most clothes on a cold, rather than a hot water cycle. There are many detergents that work just as well with this setting.

Author Bio: Liam Ohm is a regular home improvement blogger. He highly recommends stylish and versatile venetian blinds for a great way to compliment your windows.

via repost.us courtesy Green Building Elements

Solar-Powered Air Conditioning Makes Sense in the Sunshine State

Just as our friends in northern states are enjoying the crisp cooler days of autumn, we in South Florida are sweltering in the hottest part of our year. With our air conditioning units working over-time, wouldn’t it be great to have a way to use the very solar rays we are seeking relief from to power the cooling system?

Kingtec Solar now offers exactly that, as this guest post by Nicholas Brown at TreeHugger explains:

Affordable Solar-Powered Air Conditioner in a Neat Little Package is Finally Here (via Clean Technica)

  Kingtec has developed affordable solar-powered air conditioning in a relatively neat package. Here are some of the key details: Price: $2,895 USD. Cooling capacity: 16,000 BTU (4.7 kW of cooling capacity). Power consumption: 850 watts. SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio): 22.5. EER (Energy Efficiency…

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