Fairfax Students See the 'Green' Light

By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 6, 2008

School fundraising in Fairfax and Arlington counties is going green.

Students in the two counties will be going door-to-door and hawking wares this spring, but they won't be selling Thin Mints or Sally Foster gift wrap.

They will be selling light bulbs: compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, to be precise. As part of a new eco-friendly fundraiser launching on April 22, Earth Day, students will be offering the bulbs and promoting their virtues. Though pricier than traditional incandescent bulbs, CFLs use 75 percent less energy and last about 10 times longer.

The sales goal: one bulb for each public school student in the two counties, or about 186,000 bulbs. Replacing that number of regular bulbs would result in a pollution reduction equivalent to removing more than 11,000 cars from the roads for a year or planting nearly 16,000 acres of forest, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's CFL calculator.

"This was the way for kids to learn about an environmental problem and actively participate in a solution," said Holly Hazard, mother of a J.E.B. Stuart High School student and founder of the program, speaking at a kickoff event last week at Spring Hill Elementary School in McLean.

"There's no greater salesperson on the planet" than a child, Hazard said.

Bulbs will cost $8 for a three-pack of 60-watt equivalents and $10 for a three-pack of 100-watt equivalents, earning participating schools a profit of $2.50 to $3.55 per pack. They will also come with disposal instructions and, if related classroom lessons on conservation have stuck, a student-delivered tutorial on the benefits of conservation.

"Today, we're actually showing the value of collective action," said Gerald E. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, speaking to 350 cross-legged students at the Spring Hill assembly. "Hopefully, what you're doing is going to educate a lot of adults."

The sales drive, called Bright Futures, will last through May 7 in Fairfax and May 10 in Arlington. Each school's PTA will decide whether to participate and will collect the proceeds, Hazard said.

The program is partially subsidized by a $10,000 donation from Dominion Virginia Power, which has been pushing CFLs since October with a discount program through Home Depot stores. Customers who purchase certain CFLs at the 38 Home Depot outlets in the company's Virginia service region get $1.50 off a single bulb and $3 off multipacks.

On March 13, the company said, Falls Church resident Jenna Caudillo purchased the millionth CFL sold under the discount program.

"This CFL program, people have really taken to it," said Bob Fulton, a conservation specialist for Dominion. "They're really taking conservation into their own hands."

The bulbs for the school fundraiser cost more than those at Home Depot, even before the Dominion discount, but come with home delivery, school officials noted.

At the Spring Hill event, student representatives stood behind a table laden with bulbs and lauded CFLs. The "crazy light bulbs" are designed to last "10 times as long as Mr. Edison's bulbs," said Ashley Tseng, 12. She also said that they're not so ugly anymore. Manufacturers say the light from new CFLs compares favorably to that of regular bulbs.

Tseng also offered a tutorial on the safe disposal of CFLs, which contain a small amount of mercury. Dead bulbs should be taken to county drop-off sites for household hazardous waste, she said. Broken bulbs require different cleanup procedures than an incandescent bulb would, including opening a window for ventilation, sweeping fragments into a sealed plastic bag and wiping the surface.

"The last thing you have to do is wash your hands," Tseng said. "It's that easy."

For his part, John Bucy, 10, said he might skip bulb vending but would "spread the word." Emily Hamilton, 9, said she expected sales to be fun and brisk -- better, even, than the Girl Scout cookies she sells with her troop -- because "people will know they're helping the environment."

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