How many bloggers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

[Note: this is part of a webwide series of blog posts about compact fluorescent lightbulbs. January is the darkest month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (December might be a bit darker, but with all the candles, trees and dropping balls, we work hard to light it up). To fight off the darkness, bloggers everywhere are invited to create a post with their own riff on why CF bulbs are cheaper, better politically, harder to market or just plain cute. Your choice. If you trackback here, I’ll post your link in a future post and/or you can add your link to this lens, which donates all royalties to Ecotrust].

So, why have only 6% of all US households installed even one CF lightbulb?

It can’t be the economics. After all, a typical CF bulb saves the user more than $66 over its lifetime. Count the bulbs in your house, multiply by 66…

It can’t be the environmental impact. CF bulbs actually reduce the amount of mercury in the environment, because even though there’s a tiny amount of mercury vapor in each bulb, the amount of coal production they cut down more than makes up for it. Add to that the hundreds of pounds of greenhouse gases they reduce… (if you had to buy and bring home the gases with each purchase, I think it would make a difference in the the relative sales).

And it’s not the geopolitical impact either. If we switched all our bulbs, we could stop importing oil altogether. Without giving up one Hummer.

So, why are people apparently immune to the benefits. I mean, why won’t we even try one of the bulbs?

Ready? It’s because of everything you’ve already read on this page.

Lightbulbs are often the one and only home improvement most people ever make. Even tenants and college students install lightbulbs. Installing a lightbulb is so simple that it’s even the topic of an entire genre of jokes. (Ten points if you recognized the picture and the joke that goes with it.)

Lightbulbs are simple. Lightbulbs come in simple packaging. They represent a trivial decision. You need a sixty watt bulb, you buy one. Cheap, please.

CF lightbulbs, on the other hand, didn’t used to be cheap (they used to cost $10. Now it’s $2). Far worse than that, they come in horrible packaging, packaging that belies the entire point of the exercise. Installing a CF lightbulb isn’t jokeworthy. It’s harder.

CF lightbulbs have a story problem, plain and simple. They need to stop looking so weird, being so expensive and being so hard to open. Either that, or we could just grow up, suck it up and deal with it. (And they’re cheaper (much cheaper) now too.)

If you buy three or four and hate them, well, hey, it’s your choice. But if your office and your home don’t have a bunch yet, it’s a little bit of a bad joke, isn’t it? Sometimes, just because a marketer has a story problem it doesn’t mean it’s worth giving up.