Tips to Keep Your Home Festive and Ecofriendly
One New York Times article shares a couple ways you can be conscious of the environment while decking the halls with lights and decorations.
With winter comes shorter days, colder weather, family gatherings and holiday activities—but it also means bright holidays lights everywhere. According to NASA satellite footage, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, American suburbs are up to 50 percent brighter than usual, even after midnight. Even all the way out in space can scientist see how illuminated the United States is with holiday lights.
However, let’s not forget that these lights are powered by something. The Department of Energy estimates that Americans burn 6.6 billion kilowatt-hours annually using holiday lights. That is the same amount of electricity power needed to power more than 800,000 homes for a year.
Let that sink in. For about two months of the year, Americans use so much electricity for their holiday lights that they power an equivalent of 800,000 homes for one whole year.
While this might seem mind-bogglingly wild, and you might be overwhelmed with what to even do about that, there are ways you can make your lights a bit greener, according to one New York Times article.
First, switching to LED lights is about the biggest eco-friendly thing you can do when it comes to holiday lights. If you do, you’ll use up to 70 percent less energy than you would with traditional incandescent bulbs. Plus, LED bulbs last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs, so you won’t have to switch them out as often.
“If you want the lights, try to get the most efficient ones,” said Shahzeen Attari, an associate professor at Indiana University Bloomington who studies environmental psychology. “And when you’re not using them, turn them off.”
Another thing? Timers. There’s no need to keep lights on all day or into the early morning. Eleanor Stokes, a research scientist at the University of Maryland who has worked with NASA to gather satellite data on American lighting habits agrees:
“I’m all about being festive,” she said, “but you don’t need to be festive at, like, 3 a.m.” Putting your lights on a timer can have a “huge benefit,” she said.
Eight hours of holiday lights a day is a good amount of time, according to the Energy Department—this can be from dusk to around midnight. This will not only conserve energy, but it’s better for wildlife, too.
Light pollution is significantly increased during the holidays, and it can be very unhealthy and even deadly for some animals. Heavy light pollution can affect animals’ daily cycle of light and dark. Plus, it has health effects on humans that people don’t realize, too.
Another secret: extension cords. You can use outdoor extension cords in places where you want to connect strings but don’t really need lights.
If you’re a candle person, try to avoid petroleum-based paraffin ones. Candles made from soy, beeswax, or natural vegetable-based wax are much more eco-friendly, and they burn and smell just like regular candles.
Lastly, don’t be a holiday fanatic all year ‘round. When the holidays are over, officials recommend promptly taking down the lights, packing up the candles, and storing everything properly so you don’t need to buy new things the next year. Definitely don’t throw away light strings just because they’re tangled.
(I mean, do people do really do that?)
Dr. Attari is confident that if you aim for maximum efficiency with your holiday lights, it will be worthwhile, and your energy footprint will be significantly reduced. Plus, none of these steps are costly, or that time-consuming.