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The Greenwash Brigade

CFL faux pas from an ecological intelligence expert

Janne K. Flisrand Jul 7, 2009

I just enjoyed the first 45 minutes of a Minnesota Public Radio call-in show. Daniel Goleman is touting his book, “Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything,” and I was fantastically excited that he was talking about transparent, holistic ecological labeling for products. (In essence, he was touting the single-sustainability-label concept I suggested here.) He recommended a great-sounding tool, Good Guide. (I’m testing it now.)

About eight minutes before the end of the hour, it fell apart. A caller commented on all the mercury and transportation miles he was generating disposing of CFL bulbs — and Mr. Goleman congratulated him on his systems thinking, going on to note that we all need to think like that, and that the creators and promoters of CFLs neglected to do so.

I was flabbergasted. He’s promoting one of the most-debunked urban legends of anti-environmentalists — on “my” reliable radio station. Huff.

A quick web search on “mercury cfl” turns up a load of corrections – mostly about two years old. The Energy Star fact sheet (PDF) is clear, the EPA fact sheet (PDF) talks about other mercury sources in homes, too, The NPR story is the most nuanced. Then, there are a number of smart blog posts. Plus, there are new, lower-mercury bulbs now available.

Mr. Goleman, after the clear and nuanced understanding you presented during the show, I’m astounded that you didn’t immediately connect mercury from electricity production to total mercury emissions and correct the misinformation.

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