Saturday, October 28, 2006

Walmart-The New Energy Conservation Leader? Are the New Bulbs the Thing?

I attended a remarkable dinner last week in honor of H. Lee Scott, the CEO of Walmart. Hosted by the movie making Weinsteins and featuring a concert by the Eagles (so much for rock and the counterculture but Walmart does sell alot of DVD's and CD's), the focus of the dinner was Walmart's new commitment to the environment. Apparently, Walmart is now all about energy conservation and sustainability in a variety of areas (you can read about it in detail at Walmart Environmental but their efforts include pushing environmentally sound products and redesigning their stores in a "green manner".

The gift bag, in addition to a very non-environmentally packaged Eagles Greatest Hits double CD, included one of these products, compact fluorescent light bulbs. These bulbs use 25% of the energy of standard incandescent bulbs, last for five years, and save roughly $35 in energy costs over that period ($7 per year). Each bulb costs about $5, ten times that of a standard bulb, though Walmart claims it will have the price down to $3 shortly.

I tried the light-it is a very soft fluorescent, not that different from the incandescent, and not like that found in department stores and offices. And there was plenty of light to read by. So my recommendation: BUY THIS PRODUCT!!!

I think it will be difficult to persuade people to pay ten times for a light bulb in spite of the energy savings, but they should. Unlike the long return time of so-called environmental products such as the Prius and solar energy which have paybacks of several years, if ever, THESE BULBS PAY FOR THEMSELVES IN LESS THAN ONE YEAR. I dont know very many investments with that short a payback (if you do, please contact me). The per bulb price should not preclude that many people from buying it, and hopefully Walmart will continue to drive the price down. In the meantime, lets publicize those savings!!!

Offsetting this wonderful advance is Walmart's organic cotton program. We were shown a movie of a cotton field in Turkey, during which a Walmart executive said children are working in the fields because it is a cultural honor. PLEASE, YOU CANT BELIEVE THIS. EXPLOITATIVE CHILD LABOR IS EXPLOITATIVE CHILD LABOR in every culture. This must be stopped.