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Vintage Power and Light: The Coolest Thing to Happen to Tungsten Since Edison!

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If you’ve been to an architectural lighting, entertainment lighting, or decorative lighting trade show lately, you should notice an interesting trend:  the lack of attention to incandescent light sources.  The light emitting diode has overtaken the world, and like myself, I miss the days of the warm tungsten filament in a room, bathing everything in its reach with a wider spectrum of color than its LED counterparts.  Tungsten filaments, at least decoratively, have become the fine wine of our lighting generation – only those with the intelligence and artistic knowledge in using tungsten and other incandescent sources have continued to do so.  The rest of the world is convinced, at the behest of excellent marketing and often regardless of price, that LED illumination is not only the way of the future but also today’s only way to appropriately design lighting.

It’s a fact that in many applications, including modern high bay methodologies and architectural applications, LED light sources are winning hearts and minds over their higher-energy-consuming incandescent cousins.  Sooner than later we’re going to see higher output automated fixtures giving their HID counterparts a run for their money, too.  ETC’s LED Source Four ellipsoidal, Chauvet’s Ovation LED ellipsoidal, Altman Lighting’s ME3 ellipsoidal, and Robert Juliat’s Tibo and Zep LED profiles have taken the market by storm – and have begun pushing back on the use of tungsten-halogen sources, arc sources, and even halogen sources!

On the whole, energy costs when dealing with a large facility or venue are where LED and non-incandescent sources make a monster difference in energy costs.  But what about where energy costs are negligible, like in your home?  If saving comparatively a few dollars here and there in your home is less important than the feeling and artistic appreciation that something like an incandescent lamp brings to you, can you put a price on your happiness?  I’ve owned many a compact fluorescent lamp-based fixture in my home, and frankly I replace every single CFL with its halogen or incandescent counterpart.  It’s my decision, and I do what makes my eyes and my brain happy.

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On that thought, I introduce to you the work of Vintage Power and Light out of Austin, Texas – creator Lowell Fowler (of High End Systems fame) has started a new hobby art venture based on utilizing the beauty and intrigue of vintage lighting and electrical equipment tied with the warm glow of incandescent sources.  Even better than just the sexiness of a glowing filament structure, Vintage Power and Light takes the beauty of an Edison filament wrap source and melds it to gorgeous finished old-world wood components, then adds stunning copper and brass connections and controls.  My favorite parts of Vintage Power and Light’s work are their use of Consolidated Design glass insulators – there is nothing quite like a multi-petticoat glass insulator on a fixture with an artistic incandescent filament turning that glass into a mystical piece of glowing jewelry.  GAH!  This stuff is amazing!!!

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Lowell and York Fowler have put an interesting new spin on the idea of Steampunk-esque design by bringing old-world components and combining them with early 20th century incandescence.  The result is a stunning and refreshing take on using incandescence as not only an artistic statement, but a comfortable, familiar, and heartwarming addition to your house, office, or anywhere else that LEDs just don’t cut it.

Check out a series of gallery images below, click on any image for a light box of that gallery for your perusal!
Just make sure that you give credit where credit is due, and all of these photos are courtesy of Vintage Power and Light with photography by Tim Grivas.

First things first, Vintage Power and Light’s Table Lamps:

Vintage Power and Light’s Chandelier and Pendant series:

Got a Steampunk jones?  Vintage Power and Light does that too!

Last but not least, a gorgeous offering of sconces for your collection:

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JimOnLight says HELL YES to Vintage Power and LightAwesome offerings, guys!  We hope that the whole world sees your work and loves it as much as we do!

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Not Your Grandma’s CFL – The Brain Compact Fluorescent Lamp

From Belarusian design team Solovyov Design comes an awesome bit of compact fluorescent goodness that breaks the mold of the typical corkscrew-shaped glass envelope.  Meet the Insight CFL from Solovyov Design:

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I love seeing photos of the design team after meeting their lighting product for the first time.  It’s almost like seeing into someone’s soul before you see their face.  LOVE IT!  Meet Solovyov Design chief designers Maria and Igor Solovyov.  Maria, Igor — JimOnLight loves your work!

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The Daily Lamp – Hulger’s Pharaoh Pendant Series for Lightyears

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Today’s Daily Lamp is a very elegant design by Hulger for the Danish lighting company Lightyears — from the Lightyears website:

Pharaoh is a unique pendant light created for the beautifully designed and eye-catching Plumen 001 light source. Pharaoh’s aim has been to gently frame and enhance the expression of the Plumen light source, preventing glare, and ensure optimum luminous efficiency.

In addition to a precise, harmonious shape, Pharaoh is impressive in its unusual and spectacular form. When the lamp is switched off, the shade appears to be mirror-like, reflective and robust. And yet, the moment the lamp is switched on, the shade takes on a metallic transparency, thereby making the light source visible. The transformation between illuminated and non-illuminated is truly remarkable with Pharaoh really optimising this unique light source.

In stores from May 2013

The really twisty light source you see in there is called Plumen – the designer CFL. This thing is also pretty cool, check it out:

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This is a really sleek, elegant pendant!  I likie!  This is Hulger’s first commission for Lightyears, and I hope the next ones are as awesome as Pharaoh!

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Beautiful!

hulger03Thanks to DesignBoom for the initial post!

The Nernst Lamp – An Early Ceramic Glower

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In my research on light sources for a project here at KTH, I wandered across an interesting historical light source called the “Nernst Lamp.”  This source is very interesting; it was marketed by The Westinghouse Company for a while back in the early 1900’s and saw a total sale of over 130,000 units.  This lamp was invented by a pretty intelligent guy, Walther Nernst – a Nobel winner and the guy who discovered the Third Law of Thermodynamics (you know, the Law of Thermodynamics that says a crystal at absolute zero has an entropy of zero – theoretically of course).

A smart dude, that Walther Nernst.

This Nernst Lamp was a pretty interesting source – instead of using a tungsten burner, it used a ceramic rod that was open to the air and not enclosed in a vacuum environment full of Noble gas.  Since the ceramic rod didn’t oxidize, there was no need to enclose it.  Granted, it did get a bit dirty from time to time, but a cleaner kit was sold to maintain and upgrade the Nernst Lamp when it needed a little “loving.”  From the image above, the slits above the screw base and below the glower was a ballast of sorts.

A diagram of the “glower” in the Nernst Lamp:

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What I found interesting about the Nernst Lamp is that it seemed to be marketed on the same principle that the whole CFL vs incandescent argument is based upon – better light with lower energy consumption, even though we know that both of those things are a crock in one form or another.  The company that filed the public holding on the Nernst lamp back in 1899, Nernst Electric Light, LTD, had many great ideas about how this source-interchangeable-glower lamp could be used in the market.  The company’s engineering consultant and board member, James Swinburne, was quoted as saying “Nernst’s Lamp is, in my opinion, the greatest invention in Electric Lighting, since the infancy of the industry.” He also happened to be the Vice President of the Institution of Electrical Engineers, too.  I mean, granted he was probably selling that thing Billy Mays style and all, but it was an interesting and popular source for a while.

I found a public holdings announcement from 1899 when the Nernst Electric Light company went public; in the holdings announcement, there was a list of things that make the Nernst Lamp “better” than the regular incandescent.  Does any of this stuff remind you of the CFL vs incandescent fight?

1. The consumption of power is, at most, 1.5 to 1.6 watts per candle power, being about 60 % less than the ordinary 4 watt incandescent lamp, thus saving three-fifths of the Electric Lighting bill.

2. The Nernst Lamp is pleasant and becoming. Its light does not fall off materially during the life of the rod, and, as there is no bulb, there is no loss of light through either internal blackening or external dust and dirt.

3. Unlike the present type of incandescent lamp, which can only be used commercially in circuits not exceeding 250 volts, the Nernst Electric Lamp can be commercially employed either with direct or alternating currents, up to any pressure compatible with safety.

4. The manufacture on a small scale of the rods or light-emitting bodies, has already resulted in rods which have lasted the equivalent of a year’s ordinary daily usage. Further experience in wholesale manufacture may be expected to give even better results.

5. The rod of the Nernst Electric Lamp with its wire mounts is detachable, and when worn out can be easily replaced by any one, the body of the lamp serving for an indefinite period, whereas the ordinary incandescent electric lamp is of no use when its filament is broken or the glass darkened. This is an economic advantage in favour of the Nernst Electric Lamp of the utmost importance.

6. The cost of production of the Rod will be exceedingly small.

7. The process of manufacture is very simple, and plant of an inexpensive kind only is necessary. There is no “flashing,” no electrical mounting, no expensive vacuum, and, comparatively, no waste, as a used-up rod merely means mounting another in the same wire; it does not mean scrapping a complete lamp. The holders of the automatic lamps are merely ordinary fitting work, demanding no new type of manufacture.

8. Compared with the Arc Lamp, the Nernst has many advantages in respect to–
(a) First Cost, which is about one-eighth to one-tenth of the Arc.
(b) Maintenance, the whole of the expense of carbons and trimming and the cleaning of the elaborate mechanism of the Arc regulator being saved.
(c) Pressure. Unlike the Arc, the Nernst Electric Lamp can be made to take very high pressures, for instance, a single rod for 400 volts is only about 2 1/2 in. long, and by arranging two in series in each lamp, there is no difficulty in running parallel on 1,000 volt circuits without transformers.
(d) Absolute steadiness and freedom from flickering and hissing.

I think Walther Nernst and James Swinburne had something with this removable-replaceable-filament idea.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while, mostly in the fact that we don’t recycle CFL ballasts – we just throw everything away when they die.  When I met Willem van der Sluis and he mentioned that he had the same idea of replacing a CFL’s fluorescent tube when it burns out and not the whole ballast and electronics, I was enthralled.  A few days ago I went on a trip to OSRAM here in Stockholm, and learned that when incandescents were first being manufactured here in Sweden, lamps with broken filaments were recycled – washed out, cleaned up, and re-filamented.  What a concept.  It makes me wonder whatever happened to the Nernst Lamp.  Why did we abandon the idea of making light sources that didn’t make so much waste?  The easy answer is that the Nernst Lamp became obsolete when carbon filaments were replaced by metal filaments.  Too bad we didn’t maintain the idea in some form.

Nernst Lamp images:

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Thanks Spark Museum, Nernst, and Wikipedia!

Ariel Rojo’s Cerdo Ahorrador – The Cutest Pig Light Ever

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Ariel Rojo’s design studio has produced Cerdo Ahorrador – or translated for people who slaughter the Spanish language, “really adorable little pig bank/light.”  The fixture contains two things that are useful to society – a light source (cute little piggy tail!) and a coin bank, which we could all use a little practice in utilizing.  From Ariel’s studio website:

Piggy energy bank is not just a lamp, it is a message inspired in our ecological awareness and our interest in taking the steps to avoid the world energy crisis.  Ariel Rojo Design Studio combined 2 elements that are not normally related to one other: a piggy bank and an energy saving lamp. This 2 icons translate into a brilliant idea to increase the awareness about the immediate importance of energy saving.

The MoMA museum store has Cerdo Ahorrador for ninety bucks.  So much on saving some money, eh?

When you see the pictures below, do they have the quality of LIGHT UP PIG REVOLUTION to you like they do to me?

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Thanks, Tina!

Can’t Please Everyone All The Time, I Guess – Municipal Lighting Edition

I have been getting a kick out of a few news articles posted lately about municipal whining regarding LEDs and “energy efficient” lighting applications.  Lots of places across the country are installing LED based street lighting, CFL lighting in office and government buildings, high bay LED and CFL lighting, and other energy saving applications of LED technology.  It’s not making everyone happy for whatever reason.  It’s a subtle and gentle reminder that all of us will never be happy at one time.

Isn’t that a shame?

First up, the Kennebunkport Street Light Committee in (you guessed it) Kennebunkport, Maine made a plan to shut off 94 of the city’s 201 street lights.  Oh, are residents unhappy with this decision!  My first question would be about safety and visibility, as would yours I assume.  A valid question, methinks, right?  The residents of Kennebunkport are advocating for buying a bunch of LED street lights instead of turning some of the existing ones off, which kind of refutes the plan to save money right now.  Okay, it would be a long-term investment, yes – but it’s certainly not gonna be savings that anyone is going to reap any time soon.

The Kennebunkport police department showed the residents some statistics of accident data collected over the last five years to show them that there isn’t a correlation between night time driving and street light use in the town.  The town will save about $110 bucks for each light decommissioned, or about $10,300.  I wonder what they’re going to do?

(thanks WMTW)

Last but not least for now, residents of Fort Collins, Colorado are unhappy with their new energy efficient lighting in city government offices and council chambers.  Fort Collins just spent about a million dollars changing out all of their city government lighting to energy efficient CFLs.  From an article at The Coloradoan:

The last building to get switched over was City Hall, where the City Council conducts its business on most Tuesday nights. Bulbs installed in the council’s chambers changed the lighting in the room from a fairly muted yellow to a noticeably brighter, bluish tinge.

The difference has been noticed – and not altogether favorably – by residents who regularly attend council meetings as well as council members.

Community activist Stacy Lynne told the council Tuesday the room’s atmosphere had gone from one that evoked a sense of “peace and calmness” to one that is “sterile, cold and induces a sense of agitation” because of the glare from the lights.

“Is that the environment you want to create for a meeting place that inherently produces strong emotion?” she said. “Does that make common sense?”

Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Ohlson responded that the change in the view from the council’s dais brought on by the bulbs was “borderline creepy.”

The city’s intentions toward saving energy “were absolutely right on the money,” he said, but he agreed the lighting wasn’t quite right.

“In this particular case, I think we’re going to have to balance as much as possible the aesthetics and the comfort zone,” he said.

City crews switched out 52 fixtures in the council chambers, said Tracy Ochsner of operation services. The fixtures are on a dimmer switch and do not have to be cranked up to full power, he said.

Hmm.  At least the camera ops like it:

He noted that camera operators with cable television Channel 14, which broadcasts council sessions and other public meetings from the room, like the brighter lights.

Well, at least someone likes it.

*sigh*

An Interesting CFL Project – More Like CFLED

Make Mag had an article about a Make-er that created an LED lamp from a used “CFL ballast case.”  There are several reasons why I(‘m probably not going to recommend that you try this project – it’s not well protected from zapping yourself on mains voltage, you could contaminate your space with Mercury, you could slice yourself with a knife whi.e you’re cutting the top off of the old CFL, and breadboardds aren’t supposed to be used like that.

All that being said, this is an interesting project.  Check out the creator’s website.

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CFL Insect Lights?!

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I just got my first mosquito bite.  Mother%^$#% monkey sweat *&%^ crap.  Some time between the weeks of weather here in Denver with one day at 70°, the next at 40°, and the next at 70°, those little punks have gotten back out to terrorize me.  I must be SO SWEET, because they’re always EATING ME!

If it were legal, I would hunt them with my .45 – fortunately for them, it’s not.  In the mean time, we’re supposed to either buy one of those bug zappers, suck it up and let them EAT ME, or never go outside again.  I’m a sun baby, so the latter ain’t gonna cut it.  I read an article over at InventorSpot the other day and discovered that compact fluorescents are made that emit a light that deters and repels the insect invaders from whatever space your lamp sits.  Initially I had hopes that maybe the CFL self-destructed in the presence of mosquitos and other bad attitude intruders, or maybe it came with its own mosquito-murdering death ray.  Alas, it just stops them from coming around.  I guess that’ll have to be good enough!

These lamps are mostly claiming about 8,000 hours, burning about 24-28 watts.  Just from a small search, there’s a decent selection of brands at Amazon, but I love Amazon.

A Big Post About Compact Fluorescents

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I’ve been collecting information about CFLs for a few months now, and I’ve kept from writing this post for some reason until now.  There is so much back and forth out there about compact fluorescents versus incandescents, compact fluorescents versus using halogens at a lower intensity via a dimmer, and the economy versus compact fluorescents.

There is a fact of life that impacts the sale of CFLs right now – Americans, as well as people all over the world, are freaking broke.  A dollar difference in a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk is a big deal when everything else is costing more.  We’re in a crapstorm, and when you’re dealing with a 3-4 times price increase between incandescent lamps and CFLs, what do you think people are going to buy?  Most people are not versed in looking towards the long-term benefits of anything; a good example is the fact that McDonalds is experiencing record growth and profits in this economic downturn.  Hmm.

There are some major factors that play into compact fluroescent market share – cost vs. cost savings, output quality, manufacturing quality, application, and yes, aesthetic preference.

Maybe it’s easiest to start out with the most subjective issue – aesthetic choice, and how most people feel about the light emitted by CFLs.  It’s not hard to find pretty harsh criticism on compact fluorescent lamps, all you have to do is look nearly any review of the matter.  A lot of people do not like the quality of light that comes from compact fluorescent sources.  Sometimes this is an understatement – some people downright hate CFL light.  A New York Times article on the subject of CFLs versus incandescents had some people quoted on their feelings towards CFLs:

My experience with the new bulbs has been dismal. The quality of the light is bad until they warm up. They cost 3 to 5 times as much as an incandescent, and if you have old-fashioned energy-saving habits like turning off the lights when you leave the room, they don’t last any longer than the tungsten bulbs (sometimes less). And they’re more difficult to dispose of properly because of the toxic content. Maybe L.E.D. lights will be better if the price can become reasonable.

And:

There’s a difference between a low-flow toilet (which, if it performs properly, shouldn’t be an obvious change) and light bulbs that make your entire family look like cadavers.

And my personal favorite, leaving my opinion out of it altogether:

The amount of whining and the unwillingness to make small sacrifices of aesthetic preference in order to support an effort to save the habitability of our planet is disgusting. No wonder this country is such a mess.

At least we know how people really feel – and it’s not hard to see what people mean about looking like corpses.  The fluorescent lighting does have a tendency to make people look pretty crappy.  I’m a lighting designer, so light quality is something that gets a lot of attention in our home.  However, we do use a lot of CFLs in our home, too – the cost savings do add up.  We use a compact fluorescent anywhere that is what we consider a “medium-use space” – the laundry room, the back porch, the front porch, the garage, and in lamps that get turned on infrequently – like the one in the room with our television and video games.  However, I use incandescents in the kitchen and in the dining room.  The kitchen gets a lot of use, but the dining room does not.  I just like to make the food I prepare look good.  Could I do this with a CFL, or a few CFLs?  Sure.  But I have some incandescents I like for their color temperature, light output, and quality, and they are four of very few incandescents still in the house.

Now to be fair, there are “cool white” and “warm white” CFLs.  As a a matter of fact, most CFLs have both the lumens and the color temperature stamped on the package somewhere, in most cases.  There are certainly some cheapos that are in packaging with as little info as possible, and these are usually pretty crappy quality CFLs.  It’s also a fact that a large portion of the population could give a damn about what any of those numbers on the box mean – as long as it screws in, turns on, and doesn’t burn out this month, they’re happy.  Buying the right color temperature for the right application and feel is a principle that is not lost on those of us who know light and its idiosyncrasies.  However, this is lost on most people.  Buying cold CFLs and putting them in the living room might just make your whole family look like dead people.  It’s not a terribly difficult to understand concept – incandescents (generally) are warm, towards the amber end of the color spectrum – like a face flushed from the first Scotch of the evening.  Compact fluorescents generally sit on the blue end of the spectrum, high color temperature, and seem to take the blood out of a person’s face.

The interesting aspect of the aesthetic argument is that tests have been done that suggest that people on average cannot tell the difference with modern CFLs and incandescents unless they see the actual lamp.

Looking at cost, CFLs range between about $1.75 and $5 each – and incandescent sources (except maybe the Reveal lamp) being around 25 cents at the cheapest and a dollar at the most.  Operating costs are just as dramatic of a difference, with an average of 70% savings over incandescents.  It’s hard for people to see this long term, but look at some numbers:

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There are efforts to ban the incandescent lamp all over the world.  I realize this is just to force the population to exhibit a little energy savings, but I personally hate the thought of not having incandescent sources at my disposal as a lighting designer.  I am all for energy savings and being good to Mother Earth.  However, there are certain applications where we just don’t have a comparable quality source.  This is a fact.  Companies are working on it, so we’ll see how that goes.

Manufacturing quality of CFLs is like anything else manufactured – there are some superior brands and types and some very, very bad brands and types.  Some have a lot of mercury, some have little mercury.  There are also a lot – a lot – of Energy Star rated CFLs that actually do not meet the standards.  A lot of CFLs failed 2008 standards – there are more than 3,000 CFLs that meet the 2003 Energy Star standards, but 1,100 of these lamps fail the 2008 standard.  It might also be noteworthy that the Department of Energy has given a grace period until July 1, 2009 for those companies whose products failed the 2008 standards to sell about 100 million lamps that haven’t sold because of the economy.  It might also be due to the poor quality of some of them, too.  But that’s just a guess.  A company called the Environmental Working Group has published this ridiculously long list of FAIL lamps.  The report from EWG lists CFLs that are stamped with the Energy Star logo, but failed 2008 standards.  How do you like that?  167 brands, give or take, failed.

I’d check out that list.  You’ll be surprised who is on it.

Now on the other side, there are CFLs who have a low mercury content and a high longevity.  Treehugger posted a “cream of the crop” list of CFLs:

  • Earthmate’s Mini-size bulbs-13, 15, 20 and 25 Watt
  • Litetronic’s Neolite-10, 15, 20, 23 Watt
  • Sylvania Micro-Mini-13, 20 and 23 Watt
  • Sylvania DURA-ONE-reflector bulbs
  • Feit EcoBulb
  • MaxLite
  • Philips with Alto lamp technology

Energy Star has a standard equivalent wattage chart:

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One of the big contentions of CFL haters is the mercury issue.  Mercury is a poison.  Mercury poisoning doesn’t sound like anything I want to take part in at all, nor do I want anyone else to have it.  I’ve read stories about a woman breaking a CFL in her home and acquiring a $2000 clean up bill.  Why that happened, I do not know – but clean up experts say that hazard removal services aren’t required for breaking a lamp in your house.  I wouldn’t be freebasing the broken lamp or sucking on the broken tube, but you probably don’t need five guys in full hazmat gear trapsing through your house, either.

There are some guidelines for cleaning up a broken CFL.  You should take a few precautions, you know, to be safe.  Most of these are common sense:

  1. get children and your newborn baby out of the immediate area of the broken lamp.
  2. air out the room for 5-10 minutes, if possible.
  3. put on some gloves and a mask to clean up the broken lamp.
  4. put the pieces in a glass jar of plastic container, and seal it all up.
  5. wipe up the floor and clean your hands and such.
  6. recycle, don’t throw away, the busted CFL.

Seems pretty painless, maybe inonvenient.  It is a pain to dispose of CFLs, but don’t toss them in the garbage.  Take a few moments, find the recycling program for CFLs near you, and take them there.  If you don’t have time to take them there, seal them up in the garage or other out-of-the-way place and wait until you can.

Nothing is without its negative aspects.  Take tiramisu for example.  Delicious, but it makes my ass big.

Thanks to the EWG, Treehugger, EcoGeek, and NYT!