An Efficient Holiday Season: Decorating Edition

Guest Blog | December 12, 2011 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve shared with you some tips and tricks for minimizing the energy impact of your holiday cooking exploits and your shopping and gift giving activities. However, I’ve not yet touched on the aesthetics of the season.

No winter season is complete without the ornamental lights, or the cheerful air of holiday scents and decorations inside and outside your home. So today I’m going to share with you a few ways that you might be able to save some energy this holiday season, while still being able to make your home bright and festive for those relatives and guests you’re looking forward to entertaining.

When putting up lights, choose more efficient holiday lighting options.  The other day, John Wilson, SACE’s Research Director, shared with you his experience with LED lighting options for the home. In addition to using LEDs for everyday use, however, you can also switch over to more efficient LEDs light strings for your holiday decorating options.

According to Ameren Illinois, if all light strings purchased this year were Energy Star qualified, the electricity saved would equal that used by over 70,000 single-family households. Investing in LEDs can help you save money in the long-run too, since the bulbs or strings won’t need replacing every few years; one study by Consumer Reports stated that they had the same sets of LED lights burning for over 4,000 hours, without a single failure. And, you won’t have to waste hours searching for the one burnt out light bulb that’s keeping an entire string of lights from working properly.

Use timers on your lights so that you have less chores to worry about. It’s hard to remember to turn off outside lights at the right time, or turn off the tree when you aren’t going to be in the room. Putting timers on your holiday decorations will ensure that they aren’t using energy when there’s no one around to enjoy it. And, it will be one less thing you have to remember to do when you’re cleaning up after all the festivities.

Or, opt for non-electric decorations instead of lights. Traditional candles are just as beautiful as accent lighting, if not more so. Plus, if you’re a fan of scented candles, certain smells might be able to add just the right feel to your holiday festivities. Decorate your mantle with a few when guests are over, or light your walkway with them instead of using light strings; you’ll get that extra holiday glow, without that extra energy cost. Just make sure to pay attention to the flames, and follow your standard fire safety precautions.

Instead of using lights or buying new decorations…

 – Bake and decorate edibly. Remember that gingerbread house you used to make every year? Get your kids to make one and set it on the mantle. Or how about decorating your real house with treats too? Put popcorn and cranberry strings on the tree, hang candy canes around the living room, or decorate your coffee table with festive plates of gingerbread men. Of course, you may want to put certain treats out of reach of any hungry household pets!

– Make use of that homemade artwork. If your local schools are like mine, then you probably already have a collection of hand turkeys, construction paper chains, and cut out snowflakes lying around; share them with your guests! Putting them on display will not only help you save electricity and money spent on material decorations, but it will give your home a greater sense of family togetherness…and your kids will get a nice ego boost, too. Also, handmade crafts aren’t just for the children; sit down yourself and start cutting, painting, and creating. Decorating with personal artwork can give your house an extra personal, homey touch that you might have been missing.

– Reduce, recycle, and reuse old decorations. In my last post, I mentioned the benefits of buying used and recycled products. If you have to have more Snoopy statues or ornaments for your home, why not try looking for them at your local recycle shop or thrift store? Not only will you be saving yourself a little money and probably helping out a local charity, but buying used or recycled also means that your decorations didn’t require new resources or energy to make.

Think about the best way to incorporate these and any other energy saving ideas you can think of  into your holiday habits this year. By following these suggestions, you can make a big difference in lowering the environmental impact of this year’s holiday season; in some cases, your season may be made even brighter for it (both literally and figuratively)!  Here’s to a more energy-conscious holiday season!

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