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Turn Off the Tree Lights for a Natural Christmas

‘Tis the season for increased energy usage but I’d like to suggest something else: let’s do away with Christmas lights on the tree and the house altogether. Let’s go for a natural light Christmas. 

Watching Before the Flood I am reminded that oil fuels our transportation section but the coal industry is the primary source that fuels the electrical grid so anything we can do to reduce electrical consumption can help battle climate change. Anything at all. Especially now that the White House will be driven by climate deniers and potentially even heads of oil companies, everything we can do, counts. Think of the trade-off: rising sea levels; increased tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons; and out-of-control wildfires, versus twinkly lights inside a house that is already lit, or outside while the occupants are inside.  There have been plenty of suggestions

that we make ornaments by hand using natural materials, but no one is suggesting that we go really old-timey and turn the darn lights off! The wreath and the reindeer don’t really need to be lit up, IMHO as they are beautiful during the day, and no one sits in the dark with their Christmas tree lights on so why not just enjoy the Christmas tree without the lights? And this season’s new gadget -- the strobe light for the outside of the house -- can’t possibly be good for birds, bats, nocturnal animals or people hoping for peace and quiet. I, for one, am going to battle light pollution and opt for a natural light Christmas.

Websites expound the virtue of LED lights over incandescent and calculate how much you, as an individual consumer, will save, but I couldn’t find a single website suggesting that we go to a natural light Christmas.

Currently, America spends $233 million on Christmas lighting per year according to Wired.  And there’s no doubt that LED lights make a difference: The government site Energy.gov reports that “widespread use of LED lighting has the greatest potential impact on energy savings in the United States. By 2027, widespread use of LEDs could save about 348 TWh (compared to no LED use) of electricity: This is the equivalent annual electrical output of 44 large electric power plants (1000 megawatts each), and a total savings of more than $30 billion at today's electricity prices.”

Sounds good, but “which type of Christmas light is more green? It’s hard to say for sure, and here’s why: LED Christmas lights certainly use less electricity and using less electricity (and burning less carbon) is always a good thing from an environmental standpoint,” reasons the editor of Energy Check. “A lot of environmental websites like to claim that LED Christmas lights are good for the environment but I’m a little skeptical when you look at the big picture. LED Christmas lights are basically made of plastic and that newly manufactured plastic, like everything else, will eventually end up in a landfill one day. I have no idea how “green” the manufacturing process is for LED Christmas lights. I can’t imagine it is much different from any other plastic product. And those old but perfectly functional incandescent Christmas lights you’re replacing with your new LED lights? Where are they going to end up?”

Is it really such a sacrifice to put up a wreath but not flip on the flashing lights attached to it? Every little bit helps.

And while we’re at it, here are tips from the Consumer Energy Center of the California Energy Commission for making your kitchen more energy efficient while you cook.

Oven Tips:

  • Don’t open the oven door to take a peek. Instead, turn on the oven light and check it through the window. Opening the oven door lowers the temperature inside by as much as 25° which increases cooking time and wastes energy.
  • Cook several items at the same time but make sure you leave enough room for the heat to circulate around each item

Stovetop Tips:

  • Match the size of the pan to the heating element. A 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner will waste more than 40% of the energy.
  • Clean burners and reflectors (those little dishes underneath the heating element) provide better heating while saving energy. Buy high-quality reflectors – the best can save as much as one third of the energy used when cooking on top of the stove.

Other Ways to Cook:

  • Microwave ovens use nearly 50% less energy than conventional ovens so it is suggested to use them to bake yams, steam vegetables, etc.
  • Slow cookers or crockpots can cook an entire meal for about $.17 worth of electricity. This site also recommends electric skillets and says that toaster ovens use one third the energy of a bigger oven.

Refrigerator Tips:

  • While newer refrigerators use less at energy than older ones they are still one of the largest energy consumers in your house – accounting for as much is 15% of your home’s total energy usage. Here are some ways to make them more effective:
  • Keep the refrigerator doors closed as much as possible of course but, surprisingly, leaving the door open for a longer period of time while you take out items you need is more efficient than opening and closing it several times.It’s energy efficient to have a full refrigerator – the mass of cold items inside will help your refrigerator recover each time the doors are opened.

Happy Holidays


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