By Margaret Webb-Pressler
Tuesday, February 23, 2010; C10
How many Girl Scouts does it take to change 63,000 light bulbs?
That may sound like a joke, but to the members of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital, it's no laughing matter. The group has challenged its 63,000 members, ages 5 to 17, to each replace one regular light bulb with an energy-saving bulb. The project has just begun, and already troops from the District, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia have changed nearly 1,000 bulbs. Some girls have changed far more than their share.
"In just our house, about 15," said Brooke Milligan, 9, as she counted in her head the number of bulbs she has replaced at her home in the District.
"We've changed about five, but we're going to do more," said Sekai Bonner-Flagg, 9, also of Washington.
So why is something as simple as changing a light bulb a big deal?
For one thing, traditional bulbs use a lot of electricity. In the typical home, lighting accounts for about 20 percent of the total energy use. More-efficient light bulbs, sometimes called compact fluorescent, or CFL, bulbs, use about 75 percent less electricity than standard incandescent bulbs, and they last up to 10 times as long. According to the government, if every home in America replaced just one incandescent bulb a year with an energy-saving variety, it would cut down on so much pollution that it would be like taking 800,000 cars off the road.
It also saves money: If every local Girl Scout replaced just one light bulb, according to the organization, those homes would save nearly $300,000 a year in energy costs. (That's about $4.76 per house.)
The national Girl Scouts organization has made helping the environment one of its core missions. Troop leaders nationwide have taken on this task in different ways, encouraging girls to work in community gardens or start recycling programs in schools, for example.
A bit of a competition has developed among troops to see which one can change the most bulbs -- and it's being tracked online. To see how many bulbs the local Girl Scouts have changed, go to http://www.gscnc.org/lightbulbchallenge.html.
Madison Harris, 9, another D.C. troop member, said she already recycles paper and turns off the water when she brushes her teeth, so she was happy to change light bulbs at home. "I feel like I'm really saving the environment by just doing simple things," she said.