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Listen To Me!

Don’t color me green, yet. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not unconscious about my impact on the planet. I recycle, plant lots of trees and pick-up OPT (Other People’s Trash) when I walk — and pick up after — my dogs. But there are some steps I haven’t been able to take, even though I “should.” Take lighting, for example. My partner and I are lighting fanatics. Every room has to be “just so” in terms of ambient, task and art lighting. To give you an idea of our collective insanity on this subject, you should know that when we travel, we pack light bulbs to replace those dim, harsh, hotel-room fluorescents that evoke the ambience of a down-on-its heels K-Mart, minus the tinny music and blue-light- special announcements. (We also pack a shower head but that’s another story …”) But as the countdown to a Federal ban on incandescent bulbs progresses, we have tried to be better citizens of the planet by replacing some lights in our home with environmentally friendly CFL (aka fluorescent) bulbs, those twisted contraptions that look terrible on and off. But up until now, the only bulbs that have survived are in outdoor fixtures and the basement storage room. The light these bulbs produce is just too white, bright and unflattering to people and their possessions. We’ve been in homes in which the owners have jumped in all the way, producing a lighting effect somewhat akin to an airport landing zone.

For years, we’ve been asking, until now only rhetorically: When will someone make a fluorescent bulb that produces decent light and, oh, by the way, can be dimmed, too? Finally, someone has. The secret, as it turns out, is Kelvins. (No, not skinny jeans from a famous designer.) Degrees Kelvin is a measurement of the color hue of a light source. . It turns out that the light most people find appealing is around 2,700 Degrees Kelvin. When we made this discovery and learned that our local utility company is subsidizing the cost of bulbs of this very temperature, we bought a boatload and went on a gleeful rampage throughout our home, retiring incandescents in favor our 2700 new friends. So why exactly are you reading about this on a website devoted to building better relationships through effective communication? Because this tale underlines the importance of listening as the first step in effective communication. I’m a reasonably intelligent guy. Yet despite five years of concerted efforts by everyone one from Congress to Wal-Mart, I didn’t adopt this new technology until about two days ago. It hasn’t been because I don’t know the benefits to the environment and to the size of my utility bill.

For me, having my home look and feel “like home” has a higher value than cost and eco-consciousness. (I know I’m not alone; I’ve had this conversation with a hundred friends and acquaintances with CFL-free homes.) One manufacturer finally got smart, listened to the chorus of people like me, and figured out how to make a bulb that we’re willing to live with. As a result, I’ve not only added to that company’s top line, I’ve also become an evangelist. No amount of rational information exchange or Congressional take-away got me to change my behavior. Someone just had to listen to me.

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