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A Lightbulb That Could Change the World

Charles Fishman’s article on efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs and Wal-Mart (“How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change the World?” September) was outstanding. He took a potentially deadly boring subject and made it interesting to a popular audience. NASA scientist James Hansen says we have a decade to take action on climate change or our children will be living on a planet unrecognizable to us. If we’re going to take such action, we’ll need more journalists like Fishman to make stories about CFLs as appealing to mass audiences as Brad and Angelina.


Auden Schendler
Basalt, Colorado

Editors’ note: We received a phenomenal response to our story on compact fluorescent lightbulbs. Many readers took it as inspiration for action. Here’s a sampling.

I read with great interest your story on compact fluorescent lightbulbs and their potential impact on energy usage and power savings. I had bought some CFLs in the past, but I had not realized how much they had improved. The statistics that Mr. Fishman cites are pretty amazing, so I checked with various Web sites and verified them.


I was so impressed that I sent the information from the article to our Texas Campaign for the Environment and queried it to see if there was an interest in starting a CFL campaign here in Texas. This organization is very concerned about new power plants being built in Texas that use coal, so this would be a perfect way to reduce the need for the plants. It’s truly inspiring what one small thing multiplied by 100 million can accomplish.

Mike Ziegler
Austin, Texas

I was so inspired by Charles Fishman’s article on CFLs that my company is now sending one compact fluorescent lightbulb with every order. We are counting on our customers to try their free CFL and then replace their incandescent bulbs in their homes and businesses. I am president of a company that sells wholesale inspirational giftware, and not lightbulbs, but this is an action that seems like it could really have an impact on our environment and our customers’ budgets. Thank you for presenting an opportunity to make a difference in our world.


Kristina Runciman
Kingsport, Tennessee

As I picked up your September issue, I was drawn to the CFL article first, partly because I was surprised that a Fast Company article could be focused on something as simple as a lightbulb and partly because we just saw An Inconvenient Truth. It’s a great article and provides a strong message, a call to action, and an easy next step.

On a whim, I suggested that my wife read it. Not only did she read it but she presented the article to her class at our church. They found the idea very compelling and several purchased CFLs that day. Since then, the group proposed to replace all the lights in the church with CFLs–a small investment for a big savings (fiscal and environmental).


Tom Klein
Springfield, Missouri

Your article is outstanding, but there’s one way to make this whole process better: Let’s do it immediately. Let’s have some leadership from the Department of Energy to coordinate with GE, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and so forth, and in the interest of the national good, give the bulbs away.

Global warming is accelerating, more so than thought just two years ago. In one fell swoop, the United States could make a real impact very quickly, and it would stay made, because of the longevity of these newer bulbs. The nation would save money from all the coal and natural gas not mined, burned, and transported; it happens almost immediately; and it sends one hell of a message to the entire world.


Dave Huntsman
Cleveland, Ohio

My wife and I have been fans of CFL bulbs for years. We are not the people that most would believe would be fans of them: We are hard-core conservative Republicans! However, as I have said at a few alternative-energy fairs to hard-core liberal environmentalists, they are selling the right message in the wrong way. Everyone says they care about the environment, but most aren’t willing to give up something. The message of saving the earth and saving energy needs to be made the way you did in your article, with the cost (in dollars) as its main point.

Jeff Womack
San Antonio, Texas


Kudos to Wal-Mart for being courageous in its efforts to bring a better solution to light (pun somewhat intended) that would lead to less sales sometime in the future. I only hope that it examines its many other opportunities to influence its suppliers to become more energy efficient and provide those solutions to the American consumer (as well as to the rest of the world).

Robert L. Hormell
Glen Carbon, Illinois

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed and appreciated your story on CFLs. My husband and I began the switch to CFLs three years ago, replacing incandescent bulbs as they burned out. I bought a couple more 4-packs of swirl bulbs the other day because we were down to the last one in the pantry–and it later occurred to me that it may be years before we use them because virtually all of our sockets are now equipped with swirls that are no more than about three years old. I haven’t quite gotten past the old mind-set that you need a constant supply of bulbs because one or two could burn out in any given week. That may be good news for GE: For a few years, idiots like me may still buy more bulbs than they really need.


Gwen Moritz
North Little Rock, Arkansas

Business-model destruction. Making the world better. Two of the world’s largest companies working together. I can’t say enough about how incredible your article is. This is the stuff that makes Fast Company the magazine that it is.

Todd Sattersten
Milwaukee, Wisconsin


I thought this was very thought-provoking. It reminded me of the way Hewlett-Packard took the risk to cannibalize its LaserJet sales with the newly developed DeskJet (inkjet) products. As it turned out, the move expanded the overall market to the benefit of both products.

Michael Thompson
Vancouver, Washington

The Real Future of Lightbulbs?

The problem with your story is that you’re missing the entire LED lamp phenomenon. Spiral, loop, and other compact fluorescent stuff is so last century. The current interesting story is coming out of China, from Lumileds, Cree, Mule Lighting, and many others. They use just 1 to 3 watts of power compared with 7 to 15 watts for CFLs and 40 to 100 watts for incandescents. LED lights are the ones that are going to change the world. You should tell that story.


Robert Gray
Newton, Massachusetts

2006 Customers First Awards

I’d like to add a customer-service anecdote to your story on American Girl Place (“On With the Show!” September). As a retail branding consultant, I frequently visit high-profile stores to stand back and observe. Recently, I watched as a young customer and her father approached an American Girl Place hairstylist to request work on a new doll. The stylist replied that the wait for this service was over two hours. Disappointment was written all over the girl’s face (her father showed a different emotion). But the employee then went on to explain that new doll’s hair is of such a quality that it is easily stylable yourself. “It’s a lot of fun, and when you come to visit us again, you can bring in your doll for a complete makeover.” The girl was thrilled, the father was relieved, and the store for sure made a future sale. Everybody wins… . That’s great customer service!

Jerry Gelsomino
Indianapolis, Indiana


It is difficult to take your assessment of companies with great customer service seriously when you choose not to include Apple stores because you believe that Apple is not delivering on the promise of its business, as David Lidsky wrote (“Basic Training“). As a longtime Apple customer, I think he is simply wrong!

Show me one other technology company where at 2 p.m. on a weekday afternoon when I’m having some difficulty with my Apple PowerBook, I can log onto the Genius Bar for my local Apple store and make an appointment for an hour later. I drive to the store, have my computer checked out and fixed by the Geniuses, and I’m back in my office by 4:15 p.m. You might argue that I shouldn’t have been having problems with the computer in the first place. This is simply nonsense, because there are problems with every piece of technology. What makes Apple truly different is its unwavering commitment and ability to take care of customers.

George Whalin
San Marcos, California


He Could Be in Pictures

I can only hope that the philosophy and principles Jeff Skoll espouses and lives by will inspire other intelligent and successful men and women (“Moving Pictures,” September). It was my pleasure and honor to meet Skoll on several occasions. And I say what a dear, departed friend, Carl Sandburg, used to say: “You’re not what’s wrong with the country.”

Shirley Wershba
New York, New York

Fast Fix

The Enlightenment of Richard Branson” (September) incorrectly implied that all the traditional major U.S. airlines have filed for bankruptcy or gone “belly up.” American Airlines has done neither.


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