Filament bulbs: Is ambiance worth the cost to the planet?
Antique bulbs create retro vibe but also are the most-energy guzzling option for restaurants.
Wed, Jun 09, 2010 at 03:28 PM
Filament bulbs are hot these days, in more ways than one. According to the New York Times, the vintage light bulbs are the "it" decor item of the season, with specialty vendors distributing them to the hippest hangouts around.
The bulbs, which are reproductions of Thomas Edison's famous invention, are spreading at dining's elite establishments faster than compact fluorescents, perhaps because their flicker "emulates candlelight and flatters both dinner and diner." The Times compares the fancy, watt-gobbling bulbs to the Converse All Star, calling the bulbs retro cool, yet all this is played out for mostly conscientious consumers. (According to the story, the filament bulbs can use three times the energy of a standard incandescent bulb).
The article discusses the thought and expense involved in lighting a restaurant, because this element is so important to the dining experience. The energy-hogging bulbs can nevertheless create a mood for a "relatively low cost" to the establishment.
The Times cites the source of the filament bulb-boom as Bob Rosenzweig, who started selling bulbs from his salvage operation on Canal Street. He has since moved on to distribute and manufacturer Edison bulb reproductions — a business that has taken off as big box stores have stopped carrying incandescent light bulbs. Rosenzweig told the Times he can sell his products as novelty items in places where the bulbs are banned in homes.
The Times quotes Rosenzweig saying, “Everybody’s going green, but we’re still hot and red. My bulbs use a lot of energy and make the air conditioning work overtime.”
Despite claims that using the bulbs as accents would not add much to a business's carbon footprint, the Times suggests the antique bulbs are less attractive than a plain old candle on the table and more hazardous to Mother Nature's health. Citing the Natural Resources Defense Council or NRDC, the article concludes by saying such a decorative choice by restaurateurs and homeowners "boggles the mind" and reeks of hypocrisy. The article quotes Noah Horowitz of the NRDC, saying, "You can’t on the one hand brag how green you are by serving organic beer and locally grown produce while you are lighting your business with the least efficient light bulbs available in the world.”