A couple of interesting articles recently about the future of lighting. First, CNN examines the virtues and drawbacks of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). The mercury used by fluorescent bulbs has been a known problem for some time, and the article discusses ways of properly disposing of the bulbs.
The article features an interview with Ron Hui, who is chairman of the electronic engineering department at the City University of Hong Kong. Hui points out that not all CFLs are created equal, and highlights the differences between electronic CFLs (eCFLs, which are fairly common, and which I have throughout my house) and magnetic CFLs (mCFLs, which I'd never heard of before this article). The lifespan of an eCFL is 7,000-to-10,000 hours of usage, so if you left them on all the time you'd get roughly a year's worth of usage. If you average a few hours a day, they'll last somewhat longer. mCFLs, on the other hand, often have an operating lifespan of 15-30 years. So while they contain the same amount of mercury, you would use far fewer of them over time and thus generate less mercury waste.
The New York Times, meanwhile, has an article about light bulbs utilizing light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LED bulbs have several advantages over CFLs, including the fact that they do not contain mercury, they use even less energy and CFLs, and they are adjustable (including both dimming and changing colors). However, LED light bulbs are pretty new and, as a result, are rather expensive at the moment.
The article mentions that Philips Electronics will be launching its first LED replacement for a standard light bulb in a couple of months. Called the Ledino, the bulbs—equivalent to a standard 60-watt incandescent bulb—are expected to cost $107 per bulb. That's pretty expensive, so I don't think I'll be running out to replace all of my CFLs just yet. However, a quick search online shows that there are other manufacturers already selling LED bulbs for considerably less money.
Of course, if you are technically inclined and have the time, you can also make your own LED light bulbs if you want.