By: Brendon Sarisky
Several years ago, citing energy savings and the desire to reduce environmental impact, consumers and businesses began replacing their traditional, incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. Now, the lighting industry has just begun undergoing yet another shift to an emergent technology: light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, also called solid-state lighting. While these lights had been used previously in traffic lights, improvements to the specifications have led to broader use, including back-lighting for LCD TVs, laptop screens, and smartphones. Current LED bulbs are more expensive to purchase than the already-pricey CFL bulbs, but they last much longer, consume even less power and emit less heat than CFL, while putting out even more light. For example, an LED light that would replace a 60 watt incandescent bulb or a watt CFL, uses only 9 or 10 watts of power while lasting 25 times longer than the old bulb. That means less power consumed, but more light produced. So, while the upfront cost is higher, the buyer will purchase less bulbs over time and pay less in electricity costs to power them. This makes them ideal for commercial buildings. Replacements for those long, tube-style fluorescent bulbs you see in office buildings are also produced. As manufacturing techniques improve and companies leverage increasing economies of scale, the cost to make these bulbs drop, and so have the prices. Thus, while consumer LED prices are just now coming into the affordable range for most homeowners, businesses have begun switching over to LED. Government incentives for buying LED bulbs are also available, to assist with the transition. Another environmental benefit of LED lights, aside from decreased energy usage, is that, unlike CFL bulbs they do not contain mercury, so they're easier to recycle, removing some burden from local recycling plants.
Automakers (luxury and economy brands alike) are now replacing xenon or halogen headlights with new LED arrays, due to their increased brightness, great longevity, and smaller housings, which allow for more creative front-end designs and light patterns than previously possible. These companies also prefer that LED produce a "whiter" light than traditional bulbs. Christmas lights are also transitioning to LED bulbs as well. Although they are still producing CFL bulbs for now, LED bulbs have forced existing lighting companies like General Electric, Philips, and Sylvania to adapt to the new technology, lest they be left behind. After all, no one wants to be the next Kodak or Polaroid, which both failed to adapt to new camera technologies and are now shadows of their former selves. LED production for electronics has helped boost firms like Cree to great success. Cree is using this money to break into the light bulb market, since they don't have to explicitly pay another company for the LEDs for use in the bulbs they produce.
One new market that has been enabled by LED bulbs is smart lighting. Since the bulbs themselves are smaller and produce less heat, electronics can be added to the housing, allowing wireless communication with a base station. You can purchase a smart lighting kit that lets you set automated schedules, dim, toggle on and off, and even change the color of your smart lights using your smartphone from anywhere in the world. You can also have lights that respond automatically to day and night using sensors. Other new products like wearables (lights integrated into clothing and accessories) are in development as well, but still a long way off from feasibility.
Businesses have definitely taken notice of LED lighting. For the 2015 Super Bowl, The University of Phoenix stadium installed a new LED lighting system by Cree which cut energy costs by 75% while providing more uniform, photographer-friendly lighting. The newcomer has even replaced the old incandescent and halogen bulbs that illuminate that bastion of tradition, the New Year's Eve ball at Times Square in New York City. If that's not a sign that LED is the future of lighting -- at least, until something better & cheaper comes along, of course -- I don't know what is.
You probably read this sign and have concluded not to donate a can. In fact, you may be thinking: “I don’t have time,” or, “I can barely get myself to campus on time, much less remember a can,” or “how on earth am I going to carry cans on my moped?...,” and so forth. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. This is simply a reflection of what behavioral economists refer to as “rational self-interest.” Note that this is not synonymous with being selfish; rather, it entails that your behavior is “purposeful.” You’re always on a mission!
Simply put – you have considered your limited resources (time, money, and energy) and the opportunity costs you incur (i.e. what you would have to sacrifice or forgo if you decided to donate a can in this case): more study time, finishing that Netflix or Korean soap episode, lunch, etc. Thus, you have concluded your opportunity cost is too great, and this effort will not provide you with enough “utility” (pleasure, satisfaction, or happiness) to justify bringing some cans.
What if we told you that there is a certain number of cans that you could bring that would yield an amount of utility greater than what you would sacrifice in order to make it happen? Unfortunately, in a world with limited resources we always incur opportunity costs (whether it’s donating a can, studying, or going to the beach) and there is no way around it. We simply learn to pursue opportunities that will maximize our utility instead.
More specifically, the economic perspective focuses on this purposeful behavior and describes our processing as a cost-benefit analysis, or marginal benefit (MB)-marginal cost (MC) analysis. Businesses, firms, and even the government apply this analysis to figure out what to produce and how much of it to produce.
With that being said, the only way you can effectively weigh the benefits against the costs of an action is if you have all (or as much) of the information possible! Below is a list of benefits you may have not known that might alter the result of your analysis, and perhaps you will change your previous decision about not donating cans:
1. Helping others is associated with higher levels of mental health, above and beyond the benefits of receiving help and other known psychospiritual, stress, and demographic factors. (Satisfaction from donating the can of beans vs. the satisfaction from eating the can of beans.)
2. The canned food will be donated to the Hawaii Food Bank. Just to give you an idea of where your can would go, and who would receive it:
Based on numbers 1 and 2, if you have cans that are simply sitting on the shelf at home you are incurring the opportunity costs of increasing your mental health (benefit) by donating those cans to someone who would truly benefit from the food and nutrition!
Also, the EBC is making an attempt to further engage the KCC student body and its current members by offering community service opportunities so others can also increase their mental health! By donating and allowing other students/members to participate in the RIO Food Drive you are unintentionally (but nonetheless) increasing someone else’s utility (increased mental health for others)!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and now you know some Economics 101 jargon that you can use the next time you are trying to explain to your friend why you are drawing MB-MC curves to decide whether to watch one more movie!
More importantly, hopefully you will help the EBC, KCC, and the Hawaii Food Bank to collect canned food to share with those who will truly benefit from them!
 Schwartz, S., Meisenhelder, D., Ma, M., & Reed, P. (2003). Altruistic Social Interest Behaviors Are Associated With Better Mental Health. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65(5), 778-785. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/Abstract/2003/09000/Altruistic_Social_Interest_Behaviors_Are.9.aspx
 *Image from the Hawaiifoodbank.org
Remember the Sriracha Shortage of 2014? Were you unashamedly loading up your shopping cart at Longs with the green-capped bottles of goodness, fearing your days of topping everything from eggs to grilled chicken to noodles were about to go up in non-spicy flames? Srirachapocalypse may have been averted, but the rooster is in the news again.
Try walking down the Asian food aisle at your grocery store. Kikkoman. Heinz. Frank’s Red Hot. Every sauce maker has a bottle on the shelf. Heck, even Trader Joe’s is jumping on the Sriracha train. Why? Because consumers have spoken and thrown money at anything Sriracha. Oh, and then there’s this: Unlike most entrepreneurs out there, David Tran, creator of the official “rooster” Sriracha, never sought a trademark on the name – only the logo and packaging. Now, 35 years after his humble beginnings-turned chili magnate in L.A.’s Chinatown, every sauce maker – including America’s spicy sweetheart, Tabasco – can use the name slapped on an imitation recipe without fine, lawsuit, or royalty. Interestingly, Tran says he was discouraged from trying to trademark “Sriracha” due to challenges of approval for names of actual cities (it’s on the coast of Thailand). Did he know that Tabasco is a state in Mexico? Ah - that’s another story.
Our first post is dedicated to few of our new members, who joined our club during the RIO Club day!
Welcome to the club guys!