Monday, November 30, 2009

What are Green House Gas (GHG) emissions?

With Copenhagen round the corner and the world is waiting with baited breath regarding the outcome of the conference – its time to acquaint ourselves with GHG emissions.

With plenty of literature on estimation of carbon footprint, green house gas emissions, people are bombarded with climate change jargon. However the basics are unclear in minds of many. Many people have yet to grasp how they are responsible for GHG emissions. Simply put green house gases are mainly CO2, CH4, N2O, and other halogenated carbon group gases. These gases are produced as a result of burning of fuels or generated as a result of chemical processes. The question arises in our minds is that apart from the 2/4 wheeler I do not burn any fuel….then how can I be responsible for other emissions. If I stop using my car, then will I be not responsible for any emissions..isn’t it??

Energy is required for work that is performed by humans. Energy is obtained mainly by burning of fossil fuels – the other sources being energy is solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, and nuclear. Every action performed in our daily life generates green house gases in two ways directly or indirectly. Direct emission are as a result of burning fuels which at sources owned by you – for example – your car. Indirect emissions are a result of emission produced by sources which are not owned by you – for example emissions as a result of use of electricity or use of products which generate emissions at source, during transportation etc.

So now, it will start seeping in that, anything I do on this earth which uses a wee bit of energy, I will be responsible for anthropogenic (man-made) carbon emissions.

Then how on earth are nations all over the world thinking about reducing the manmade CO2 emissions and curbing it at a level which will limit the heating of the earth’s atmosphere? Curbing CO2 emissions will mainly through rethinking of our current sources of energy and concentrating on using renewable sources of energy, improved energy efficiency. The other aspect is that of find ways to remove GHG gases from the atmosphere(in the form of carbon sinks, carbon reservoirs etc). 

Now that you know how each one of us is responsible, you can make a difference through your green efforts. Each green action will translate into carbon emissions avoided.

Hope this post has helped in understanding the hulabaloo about GHG emissions!

CIAO till the next post


Friday, November 13, 2009

CFLs in India and why I am worried…

In my last post on CFLs my readers would note my optimistic pitch and tinged with a bit a caution regarding how CFLs should be disposed. One should note that when something new is introduced in the US or EU or Australia a lot of strategic thinking and planning is put in place. In this case introduction of CFLs being backed by outreach(in my view not sufficient enough) regarding its benefits and also how to dispose them at the end of their lifecycle. It is important that CFLs are kept out of landfills or trashcans due to the mercury component in them. In US several stores like IKEA, Home Depot take back used CFLs. Recycling centers also take back CFLs.

CFLs in India however is another story. Let me explain – I am not against CFLs. Do use them in your homes..but can the thrifty Indian be warned enough that please avoid cheap ones. They do not last and break easily. In India CFLs have penetrated the poorer sectors as well. The transition for them has been from no light to CFLs. CFLs can run on batteries and hence in many rural areas it allows them to be off-grid(thru use of solar panels). It worries me that people are not sufficiently aware that what to do with a bulb at the end of its life. It worries me that there is no safe disposal system for recycling of CFLs in India. A recent article from Toxic Alert highlights this concern. Greenpeace in India has led several campaigns highlighting the effects of mercury release from these bulbs. As a result of the bad press that CFLs have received the pro-CFL lobby in India went on to show that the amount of mercury to be released due to CFLs will be miniscule as compared to the emissions of mercury from coal production. People in India somehow miss the whole point I guess. The focus should be on safe use of CFLs and safe disposal!

I am aware of hazardous waste management facilities run by RAMKY in the country do accept CFLs. Municipalities, townships, village representatives should be made aware of disposal of hazardous waste. A CSE report on CFLs in India clearly highlights the regulatory and management issues for a successful CFL program in the country(Study published in Down To Earth (January 15-
31, 2009).

Proper recycling and disposal of CFLs is a must – at manufacturers site or common waste management facility ? Or both with differing costs?

As highlighted by the CSE study the way forward is

• Existing recycling facilities at manufacturing sites must be
made available so that CFLs can be recycled even before
the government mechanism is put in place
• Cost of disposal must be part of the cost of the CFL
• A system must involve buy back of burned out CFLs

At present – the least you can do -

1. Buy your bulbs from reliable sources (marked by BIS)

2. If a CFL breaks in your home, be sure to disperse the harmful vapors by opening a window prior to cleaning up the pieces. Sweep up the fragments, taking care not to touch them with your hands and place the pieces in a sealed plastic bag for disposal. Be sure to wipe the area where the breakage occurred to make sure all fragments are removed.

3. Ask your township for a recycling of these bulbs.

4. Ask your dealer to will take back used bulbs or bulbs which fuse within a year.

Bye for now….

Do send your comments, concerns and forward this post.



Monday, November 9, 2009

CFLs are here to stay!


Hi folks – writing a new post after a month. The old tungsten filament bulbs will soon be obsolete as the compact fluorescent lamps(CFLs) are here to stay. World over we have seen a rapid change of normal light bulbs to CFLs.  This is a good change since we are talking about energy and money savings. To most people talking in terms of reductions in CO2 emissions do not make sense. What makes sense is talking in terms of savings in terms of money.

A CFL bulb uses up to 75% less energy than old fashioned bulbs. Every bulb changed means reduced demand for electricity which means lesser CO2 emissions, lower pollution, lower costs. That means cleaner healthier air, environmental and public health benefits. Each CFL lasts about 7 years. If every household in America replaced just one light bulb with Energy Star – qualified CFL, the reduction in CO2 emissions would be like taking 800,000 cars off American roads( Through the ambitious Project Porchlight’s endeavors this could be a reality.

I first saw these bulbs in IKEA London way back in 2000. My small studio apartment in London had only a three light fixtures. I changed them all. Electricity is costly in UK. My monthly energy bill plummeted drastically due to use of CFLs.  When I came to US and saw the wasteful light fixtures I was a bit amazed! Land of plenty it is! Also the fact that electricity is cheap in US as compared to Europe or Asia – makes people residing here less inclined to make any changes in this regard. But all this is changing slowly yet steadily. So CFLs have made way into our homes and are lighting up are lives.

Excited about the wonders of the new light many of us would not know what to do with the CFL after it is spent. Many of the fixtures we use today such as fluorescent and high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps contain mercury and ballasts that contain PCB can be hazardous. Due to the trace amount of mercury the end of the life safe disposal is of concern. What happens to your old lighting fixtures when you buy new ones? They are probably trashed but it might not be the correct way of disposing of them. There are federal regulations on the disposal of ballasts and lamps in US and EU.

LAMPS: Mercury is a very deadly element when in contact at very high levels. All fluorescent and High-intensity discharge (HID) lamps contain small amounts of mercury. This amount may not affect your health but still needs to be disposed of correctly so the mercury will not accumulate. Just to be on the safe side it is better to consider all lamping waste to be hazardous.

This means that they have to be recycled or taken to a hazardous waste landfill. When these lamps are recycled they are smashed and the mercury is taken out; then the other parts of the lamp are reused.

There are some new developments in lamps that have lower mercury content that are approved by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and is safe to dispose of as solid waste but regulations in each state are different so be sure to check.

BALLASTS: If your old ballasts does not have a label stating "NO PCBs" then it does not contain PCB. Prior to 1979 all ballasts made in the U.S. contained PCBs.

If there's a Home Depot store in your city or town, you can simply drop your used CFL bulbs off at the store for safe recycling, free of charge.

Also check out for the same.

For more information about compact fluorescent bulbs, visit

For more information about compact fluorescent bulbs and mercury, visit

So much for now, till the next post CIAO!