We’ve heard scads about Wal-Mart turning over a big, fat green leaf (here and here and here and probably lots of other places, too).

Well, here’s another one reported by Fast Company that really left my jaw hanging open:

In the next 12 months, starting with a major push this month, Wal-Mart wants to sell every one of its regular customers — 100 million in all — one swirl bulb. In the process, Wal-Mart wants to change energy consumption in the United States, and energy consciousness, too.

Of course they’ve got the old self-interest motive going:

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It also aims to change its own reputation, to use swirls to make clear how seriously Wal-Mart takes its new positioning as an environmental activist.

But that’s still a s**tload of energy saved. It’s a doubling of CFL sales in 1 year! In terms of energy savings, it stacks up like this:

[110,000,000 60 watt replacements are] enough electricity saved to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island … one bulb [in every household] is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.

There’s lots of interesting data and commentary in the article — about the ripple effects of a shift to CFLs, why GE might be eager to partner with Wal-Mart on a project that could hit them hard, and how Wal-Mart is thinking about this effort.

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A switch to CFLs could represent a stabilization wedge of its own, and potentially could send big positive signals throughout society that efficiency matters. I’m certainly sensitive to concerns about Wal-Mart, especially their labor practices (note: this article mentions as a cost — not labor — issue that CFLs require Chinese laborers to hand twist the tubes). However, a shift to CFLs seems like a really big step in the right direction.

Anyone want to comment on the downsides?