No More Bad Bulbs: Planned Obsolescence and the Lightbulb Industry

cartoon about planned obsolescence in lighting

In an enlightening conversation with Tom Enright, the Chief Lighting Officer at GoodBulb, a deeper insight into the lighting industry was revealed, touching on a concept that not only shapes the world of lighting but also impacts consumer choices and environmental sustainability. This concept is none other than planned obsolescence, a strategy that has long shadowed the evolution of products we use daily, from smartphones to vehicles, and significantly, lightbulbs.

Understanding Planned Obsolescence

Planned obsolescence is a deliberate business strategy where products are designed with a limited useful life, so they become obsolete—either unfashionable or non-functional after a certain period. This practice encourages consumers to purchase newer versions, thereby driving continuous demand for the latest models. Despite its illegality in numerous countries, evidence of planned obsolescence is still prevalent across various industries, including the lighting sector.

The Historical Context: The Phoebus Cartel

A striking example of planned obsolescence in action is the formation of the Phoebus Cartel in 1925. This consortium, which included leading electric companies like General Electric, Philips, and Osram, convened with the explicit goal of controlling lightbulb lifespan. Prior to the cartel's establishment, advancements in lightbulb technology were geared towards extending longevity, with bulbs lasting thousands of hours. However, under the cartel's agreement, companies manufactured lightbulbs to last no more than 1,000 hours, imposing hefty fines on those who deviated from this standard. This move drastically reduced the lifespan of lightbulbs, marking a significant shift towards planned obsolescence.

cartoon showing light bulb engineered to fail

The Ongoing Reality

Although the Phoebus Cartel disbanded around World War II, the principles of planned obsolescence continue to influence the lighting industry. Today, consumers often find themselves replacing bulbs more frequently than necessary, a practice that not only affects their wallets but also contributes to increased waste and environmental harm.

Championing Transparency and Quality: GoodBulb’s Mission

At GoodBulb, the commitment to transparency and quality stands as a beacon of hope against the backdrop of planned obsolescence. With over two decades of experience in the lighting industry, Tom Enright emphasizes the importance of offering products that are designed to last. Unlike the industry norm, GoodBulbs are crafted with longevity in mind, ensuring that consumers enjoy better light quality and significant savings over time. The ethos of GoodBulb is built on honesty, quality, and sustainability—values that are often overshadowed by the pursuit of profit in the broader industry.

Joining the Movement Against Planned Obsolescence

The revelation of planned obsolescence within the lighting industry is not just an issue of consumer rights; it's a matter of environmental responsibility. By choosing products like GoodBulbs, consumers can take a stand against the wasteful cycle of continuous replacements and contribute to a more sustainable future.

We invite you to help spread the word about the realities of planned obsolescence and the value of choosing quality, long-lasting products. Share this post, advocate for transparency, and join us in the #NoBadBulbs movement. Together, we can illuminate the path towards a brighter, more sustainable future, where quality and honesty light the way.

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