Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are a great option for going greener at your home; in addition to using upwards of 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs (saving you $30 or more, per bulb!) and lasting 10,000 hours or more (that's five times as long as most incandescents), they're available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, to fit just about any fixture from desk lamps to recessed cans. The caveat to CFLs is that each bulb contains a small amount of mercury vapor, making them a little tricky to dispose of when they finally do burn out.
While the mercury is not likely to harm you or your home-and incandescent bulbs actually cause more mercury to be emitted into the atmosphere via coal-burning power plants-it does mean that you can't just pitch them in the garbage if they burn out. Thankfully, more and more businesses and resources are available to make it easy to recycle your CFLs.
Nationwide stores that offer CFL recycling
1. IKEA offers free in-store CFL recycling; find a location near you.
2. ACE Hardware just upgraded its program to include stores across the U.S.; find one near you.
3. True Value Hardware accepts CFLs for recycling at many (but not quite all) of their locations; use their website's handy store finder
Online resources for finding CFL recycling near you
1. Earth911.org is a great place to start if you can't find a hardware store or IKEA near you, and, as a bonus tip, they can help you find locations to recycle just about anything you have to get rid of, from appliances to batteries and paint.
2. LampRecycle.org has an extensive list of the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers (ALMR), a national organization whose member companies network with each other so that lamps from anywhere in the country can be collected and recycled.
3. The Environmental Protection Agency has a useful map and listing of all 50 states to help find a safe recycler wherever you live (yep, even in Guam or American Samoa!).
4. Lightbulbrecycling.com can help if all else fails; they'll send you a handy, postage-paid plastic pail which will accommodate about 30 CFLs; once you fill it up, just call Fed-Ex for a pickup.
Keep your eyes open for recycling initiatives in your area, too, because many municipal waste disposal organizations and local governments provide CFL recycling opportunities, either at regular intervals or on special occasions (like Earth Day). Now go forth and recycle!
Difficulty level: Easy