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Green bulb, red light

Free compact fluorescents are a fine idea, Lezlie Lowe says, except for all the driving to a multinational box store the plan entails.


Figures. Off I went in my last column blithely praising the provincial government. I should have known that kind of out-of-character move would come back to bite me in the ass.

See, I bitched last time around about the Harper government's 2006 axing of the One Tonne Challenge environmental education campaign and, silly me, I tossed a bone to Conserve Nova Scotia's new It Starts With Me marketing program (you know, the one that's been driving you up the pole with its endless inquiring: How many Nova Scotians does it take to change a light bulb?).

The It Starts With Me campaign was launched in April by the MacDonald Tories to encourage the use of compact fluorescent bulbs. Phase one was a marketing blitz. (How many Nova Scotians does it take to change a light bulb? How many Nova Scotians does it take to change a light bulb? How many Nova Scotians does it take to change a light bulb?)

In phase two, Nova Scotians learned not the answer to how many Nova Scotians it takes to change a light bulb, but rather how far Nova Scotians will have to drive to change a light bulb—all the way to Home Depot.

The Tories, see, are giving away 40,000 compact fluorescent bulbs in an effort to show people how painless this environmentally positive lighting change really is. Such a good idea! Except, to get a pair of the bulbs for your household you need to find a way to get to Home Depot, either in Bayers Lake or at Dartmouth Crossing. Oh, Conserve Nova Scotia, you lost me at the box store.

No doubt the 40,000 free bulbs will fly from the stores. And the $200,000 price tag for phase two (which you and I are footing) will be considered money well spent. But isn't driving to a US-owned mega-warehouse in some box-store desert a little, um, off the mark, philosophically speaking?

If they were really married to the monstro-mart idea, at least the Tories could have chosen Kent, which is Atlantic Canadian-owned. There are also troubling links to consumerism and affluence in this deal. But what really irks me is the driving part.

The ultimate goal of encouraging people to switch to compact fluorescent bulbs is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Asking folks to drive somewhere to do that is contrary to all sense. And people will be making special trips to Home Depot just to pick up their free compact fluorescent bulbs. Don't imagine otherwise. We live in a society where people will drive 15 minutes out of their way for gas that's five cents a litre cheaper. We're loony for a good deal and there's no better deal than getting something free. The Nova Scotia government just added 40,000 errand-running cars to the road and they're all headed to Home Depot to get their free compact fluorescent bulbs before May 20.

Look to the Town of Canso for a way out of the traffic. Two weeks ago Canso delivered compact fluorescent bulbs door-to-door to light the way for consumers reluctant to make the switch. Now that is one bright idea.

Lezlie Lowe reads her three-part Coast series “Living with HIV” May 18 at Venus Envy, 1598 Barrington Street, 7pm. Admission is a $5 suggested donation and the event is a benefit for the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia. Lowe took home an Atlantic Journalism Award in the Feature Writing category for the series. Deliver your comments to:

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