Wasted Energy: The Environmental Consequences of Holiday Lighting

Holiday lighting is festive, cozy, and sets the mood of the holiday season. Illuminating the months of winter has long been a part of the Christmas tradition, and each year at this time, cities and houses turn their Christmas lights on. But the extension of Christmas lighting periods and the increasing quantities of Christmas light displays have led to wasted energy and, more widely, to light pollution. So before plugging in your lights, and without becoming a Grinch, this is what you should know about the environmental consequences of decorative lights.

Electricity Waste

Regardless of how great outside Christmas lights may be to see, they require a lot of energy and are an immense waste of our planet resources. According to the Department of Energy report, holiday lighting consumes more than six terawatt-hours per year, the equivalent of the total electricity consumption of 500,000 homes in one month. It is hard to ignore the environmental consequences of this unnecessary electricity consumption. The energy used in powering seasonal lighting results in the wasteful burning of coal, oil, and natural gas. The unwanted byproducts of this can include smoke, acid rain, and carbon dioxide emissions.

DOE estimates the country could save approximately $410 million in electricity costs by switching to LED Lights.

Similarly, the regular incandescent Christmas bulbs we mostly use to decorate our houses are particular energy wasters. Over the year, we watch our power consumption, trying to be green by saving energy, yet when the holidays arrive, we leave lights on for hundreds of hours. Every household hanging Christmas lights should know that each bulb turned on in the name of Christmas will increase emissions of greenhouse gases. According to the Energy Saving Trust, fifteen thousand five hundred hot air balloons could be filled with the carbon dioxide produced by our holiday lighting.

Regular Christmas bulbs are also dangerous for your health and security. There are three times more household fires at Christmas, mostly due to the combination of hot light bulbs and dried-out Christmas trees surrounded by paper. Moreover, according to a CNN report on the toxic dangers of Christmas lights, those bulbs appeared to have high lead levels, that experts say is enough to be dangerous to children. “I wouldn’t needlessly expose [children] to a lead-based hazard that could have significant lifelong consequences for that child’s cognitive capacity or their attention or other health problems,” said Dr. Trasandem. A specialist in children’s environmental health at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Although Christmas lights will never be completely eco-friendly and 100% safe, you may not have to shut all your holiday lighting off yet. There is a better alternative to the traditionally toxic and inefficient decorative lights.

LEDs (light-emitting diodes) last ten times longer and use 90 percent less electricity than standard lights

Switching to LEDs

Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are the best alternative for your holiday lighting needs. LED-maniac Tim Naughton, running Light 4 Fun, explained that LED Christmas lights only use 10 percent of the power needed by incandescent lamps. LED Lights also last ten times longer, with an operating life of more than 20,000 hours. The use of LED Christmas lights on the Champs Elysees, Paris, allows the City to save a vital electricity amount. During the whole holiday lights season, the total power consumption will only be 31,000 kWh, whereas incandescent lights consumed 480,000 kWh. Moreover, LED bulbs don’t pose the same fire risk as to the incandescent kind. Therefore, even if LED lights are more expensive, their low level of power consumption will reduce your Christmas electricity bills in the long run.

The Grinch is greener than Santa Claus.

Solar Christmas lights are also another alternative to green your holiday lights, but their brightness is uncertain.

But before hanging your new Christmas Light Displays, mail your old inefficient lights to HolidayLEDs.com, and they will recycle the individual components and give you a coupon for 25 percent off any LED lights they sell. See! Now you can be green at Christmas and save money without being a Grinch!

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