So yesterday the EU pulled the plug on inefficient household lighting. The phase-out will be complete by 2012, when only energy saving lightbulbs will be made or imported into Europe for household use.
Almost anyone can tell you why switching to energy saving lightbulbs is a good idea -- even companies lobbying against efficiency standards advocate "making the switch" to save consumers money and greenhouse gas emissions.
So why should radical activists spend precious time campaigning on such seemingly uncontroversial low hanging fruit? Shouldn't Greenpeace leave this sort of thing to, say, progressive politicians and mayors, and concentrate on stuff like quitting coal and stopping nukes?
Well first, we are still campaigning on coal and nukes and all that other rotten stuff. Half of the Energy Revolution is getting of the dirty stuff and using green energy instead.
The other half of the Energy Revolution (the what now?) is about saving energy if we really need to use it at all. So that's energy efficiency basically. And that's what the lightbulbs campaign was for.
With the French and Irish lightbulb campaigns we also demonstrated that EU member states can lead Europe by proposing their own mandatory efficiency standards. They don't need to wait around to see what Brussels comes up with. And even if Brussels does finally come around to something that's different--something that will cut greenhouse gas emissions faster--that's okay too.
The lightbulb campaign wasn't uncontroversial. Hardly any states have a working system for getting electrical and electronic waste (like used CFL lightbulbs) to proper handling and recycling facilities. So they need to get their waste management in order.
If it hadn't been for activists in Europe and around the world supporting the campaign, the lightbulb manufacturers would have won their demands for delays and loopholes in the standards. The next energy efficiency campaigns will require even more public support, and I'm afraid they'll become increasingly complex (what's easier than switching a lightbulb, seriously?).