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Steal This Idea: Better CFL Packaging

Here is an idea to help boost the sales of compact fluorescent lights, and to make sure consumers recycle their burned-out CFLs.

Australia recently passed a law that will ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs in three years, and other countries are looking to follow suit. Here is an idea to help boost the sales of compact fluorescent lights-the leading alternative technology-and to make sure consumers take the imperative step of recycling their burned-out CFLs.

The idea:

A 25-watt CFL will save 75 percent of the energy costs of a 100-watt incandescent bulb while providing the same amount of light. Seems like a no-brainer, but adoption has been slow. There's also a downside: Each CFL contains trace amounts of poisonous mercury that must be recycled so that it doesn't leach into the soil in a landfill. What if clever packaging simplified the process of recycling, while also making the technology seem as sexy as it is smart?

How it might work:

The elegant box design increases the CFL's desirability and communicates valuable information about cost savings and how the technology works. The inner sleeve protects the bulb from damage; it also documents statistics about CFL use and the earth-friendly packaging. The outer packaging is reversible; printed on the inside is a prepaid shipping label. You put the burned-out CFL you're replacing in the return packaging for free and safe recycling-all you have to do is drop it in a mailbox.

What it means:

As noted on the packaging, if every U.S. household replaced one incandescent bulb with a CFL, "it would save enough energy to power more than 2.5 million homes and prevent the formation of greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars." The no-hassle recycling would reduce the amount of dangerous mercury ending up in landfills.-Mindy LaClair

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