Do-gooding, world-dominating cinnamon roll and duvet cover peddler IKEA has long had a knack at forcing influencing consumers to readjust their shopping habits for the greater good of this here struggling planet. After all, the environmentally progressive purveyor of affordable home furnishings — the world’s largest, by the way — was the first retailer in the U.S. to officially pull the plug on the sale of incandescent light bulbs and, before that, completely eliminate the presence of single-use plastic shopping bags in favor of FRAKTA, the store’s reusable blue polypropylene tote that costs 59 cents and is most excellent for hauling laundry, moving, and taking on road trips. The alternative? Bring your own bags.

Seriously, to this day I still witness folks in the check-out line at my very local IKEA freak out about the bag situation. From my observations, these patrons usually recover from the shock of having to dole out less than a dollar for a reusable bag after snarfing two hot dogs and a fro-yo cone.

Now, just two years after IKEA rose to prominence as Michele Bachmann’s worst nightmare with the “Great Incandescent Phase-Out,” the Sweden-borne store is making another bold, energy-saving/emissions-cutting related move with the announcement that it will only sell LED bulbs and lamps by the year 2016. Currently, all 38 American IKEA locations offers LED, halogen, and CLF options.

With the announcement, IKEA will become the first home furnishings retailer in the U.S. to strictly sell LED lighting options (at the lowest price on the market apparently). In addition to converting its entire lighting range to LED, IKEA US will also go about swapping out millions of CFLs and other bulbs at its stores with LEDs and more efficient alternatives. Walking the talk, as they say. According to IKEA, LED bulbs last twice as long as CFLs while consuming significantly less energy. And, of course, they're mercury-free.

Proclaims Steve Howard, sustainability honcho for IKEA Group, in a press release:

LED is a light revolution. With household electricity bills continuing to rise rapidly and global energy consumption increasing, a small LED bulb can have a very big impact. It uses much less energy than a traditional bulb and brings a lot of home furnishing potential to the home. Building on our belief that everyone should be able to afford to live more sustainably at home, we will make sure our LED prices are the lowest on the market.

Right now, it appears that a single LED bulb from IKEA costs a not-too-shabby $9.99 and boasts a 20,000 hour lifespan while consuming 85 percent less energy than an incandescent. And, of course, the store offers a range of LED lamps ranging from hideous to humanitarian-minded. I'm curious to see if the $10 sticker price will drop even further once the banishment of CFL and halogen bulbs is complete. If anything, the fact that IKEA will be selling cheap LEDs will help unmoor the high-efficiency bulbs from their predominately "premium" status; a status that scares many consumers away and into the more affordable yet inferior embrace of CFL bulbs.

In tandem with the big announcement, IKEA US has also revealed the results of a global lighting survey dubbed “Americans are Starting to See the (LED) Light.” The results are mostly encouraging (we're certainly warming up to the idea of LEDs), but we still have a long ways to go.

Some highlights:

  • Slightly less than one-half of Americans (43 percent) have at least one LED bulb in their house compared to China (80 percent), Russia (65 percent) and Sweden (61 percent).
  • When told of LED savings, 86 percent of Americans say they’re interested in switching.
  • Nearly half of Americans (44 percent) feel they would save up to 30 percent on their electric bill by using LED bulbs.
  • 55 percent of Americans feel they will be with their significant other for the time that one LED bulb lasts — up to 20 years
  • More than one-fifth of Americans (22 percent) are currently using between 11-20 incandescent bulbs in their homes

Any thoughts on this new development, dedicated IKEA shoppers?

MNN tease photo: SlipStreamJC/Flick

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

IKEA to drop CFLs, sell only LEDs by 2016
Having already banished incandescent bulbs from its shelves, Swedish home furnishings behemoth IKEA makes a bold move with the announcement that it will sell on