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How many companies does it take to change a light bulb? One.

Yesterday, we got the following letter from the president of a Tennessee company:

"I was so inspired by the article by Charles Fishman on CFLs that my company is now sending one compact fluorescent lightbulb with every order. We are counting on each customer to try their free CFL and then replace their incandescent bulbs in their homes and businesses.

"We sell wholesale inspirational giftware, and not lightbulbs, but this is an action that seems that it could really have an impact on our environment, and on our customers' budgets. Thank you for presenting an opportunity to make a difference in our world."

Talk about taking what you read to heart.

The note was from Kristina Runciman, president of Lifeforce Glass, a small company in Kingsport, Tennessee, that is a wholesaler of smooth glass stones with inspirational quotes etched on them, and we called Runciman to learn a little more.

Lifeforce sells to gift stores and retailers, and for the last 10 days, they’ve been putting a bubble-wrapped GE compact fluorescent bulb, purchased at Sam’s Club, in with each order, along with a note explaining why they’re sending their customers a lightbulb.

"I didn’t really understand how good the bulbs had gotten until I read the article," Runciman said. "We’re in kind of a spiritual business — if golf is your path, we have a lucky golf stone, if you’re a Christian, we have New Testament scriptures; we love Einstein.

"So my husband and I bought a few of the bulbs for the house, and saw that they worked well."

Lifeforce is relatively small — less than $1 million a year in revenue — but they’ve already run through Runciman’s initial purchase of 100 CFLs.

"I do like to give back," she says. "I’m a big believer in tithing. But it’s frustrating to just write a check. By buying them and distributing them to our customers, we feel like we’re really doing something good."

In an era where we’ve all become accustomed to waiting for someone else, someone more important or more powerful or more official, to take action on urgent problems, Runciman’s decision to pop a bubble-wrapped CFL in a lunch bag and send it along is a reminder that we all have the power to change the way the world works.

Runciman can be emailed at:

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  • Micheal Finley

    Most of the CFL bulbs are manufactured in plants partially owned (invested in) by GE, Osram Sylvania, or Philips. To invest in them would require negotiation with a Chinese company due to their myriad of legal constraints in the area of foreign ownership. In the lighting industry CFL's are quickly becoming an old technology. To be ahead of the curve you might want to think of investing in companies manufacturing LED (light emmitting diodes). LED will soon make CFLs as obsolete as CFL have made the incandescent lamp, but at a much faster pace do to their flexibilty.

  • Kristina Runciman

    In our case, it just means the search for a connection with the divine, or God, or the force greater than oneself, whatever term has meaning for you. It is not necessarily religious.

  • roger fulton

    somebody,someday is going to have to explain to me the meaning of the word "spiritual."

  • JoAnn Stone

    A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL ? Oh, say it's so. Does this mean that when we can't depend on the United States government (as in the White House, Senate, and House) to do the right thing, to provide leadership in the face of disaster, both short- and long-term, it is, in fact, possible for the corporate world to do so? I want to know more, learn more. In the face of Enron and Tyco and WorldCom and on and on, this is encouraging. Certainly, we know it is possible. I hope FAST COMPANY stays on this to see if Wal-Mart and GE see it through.
    JoAnn Stone

  • teri calhoun

    Great article! If Israel would invest in the economic development of its Palestinian brothers there would probably be less "terrorism" over there and over here.

    Who makes these CFL's . I know G.E. distributes them, but who actually manufactures them. I would like to invest in that company, or those companies.