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Scene@ Bust - A - Bulb

Price Chopper Plaza, Essex Center, Saturday, March 8, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.


Published March 12, 2008 at 7:19 a.m.

  • Matthew Thorsen

Eric Engler handed me the gun. “Careful,” he said. “The trigger’s sensitive.”

I slowly squeezed the . . . pop-pop-pop!

“Well,” I said, “I guess it is.”

I regrouped and recalled the advice I had just heard an overbearing father relay to his school-aged son: “Sight. Breathe. Squeeze.” I repeated that cycle six times before I hit my target — a glowing, incandescent light bulb perched inside an Oscar the Grouch-esque garbage can.

I was among a couple dozen people who brought their energy-sucking light bulbs to the Price Chopper, assassinated them with a paintball gun, and went home with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). It was Al Gore meets “Rambo.” Ready. Aim. Save the Earth.

Wacky? Maybe. But it produced a successful event for the Essex Energy Task Force and Efficiency Vermont, which strongly urges Vermonters to use CFLs.

“We’re trying to kick people in the paradigm,” said Tom Taylor of the Essex group, who broached the Bust-a-Bulb idea to town officials when they formed the task force in October.

“They said, ‘You want to do what?’” Taylor remembered. “It was like — ‘huh?’”

The idea, Taylor said, was to get frugal New Englanders to stop using incandescent bulbs until they wore out and, well, destroy ’em. Engler quickly donated supplies from his Jeffersonville paintball shop.

“So, are we saving the environment through violence?” I asked Taylor.

“Simulated violence,” he said.

“I’m teasing.”

“I understand.”

As we walked to a nearby Aubuchon Hardware store, where Efficiency Vermont had set up shop, Taylor explained the statewide goal: If Vermonters in geographically targeted areas switch to CFLs, reductions in the annual summer and winter electric peak loads will curb the need for expensive utility upgrades. In turn, customers save big bucks on their light bills.

At Aubuchon, Kate Salerno of Efficiency Vermont and Essex task force chair Irene Wrenner were surrounded by CFLs and brochures — all printed on recycled paper, of course. Those who bought a 99-cent CFL also helped themselves to complimentary pizza, soda and cookies.

“This is the culminating event for us,” Wrenner said. She laughed and added, “Maybe the town will shut us down after this.”

Not if all those Essex boys who got to shoot out light bulbs on a Saturday have anything to say about it.

“Finally,” one of them said, after he hit the incandescent bull’s eye. “I killed it.”