Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pretty. Sparkly. Energy Efficient.

I am a crow at heart – I am completely mesmerized by sparkly, shiny objects. So, the holidays are always an exciting – and slightly distracting – time for me, as I stop to ogle my neighbors’ Christmas trees, all lit up in their fine domestic glory.

Unfortunately, at the same time, my environmentalist conscience is loudly screeching, “what a waste of energy!” Ouch. But, it’s true. It is a – very pretty - waste of energy. No one needs Christmas lights. But that is, as they say, neither here nor there. Christmas lights are part of our traditions. And it somehow warms the soul to walk down a cold, dark street and see trees lit up in windows.

But, folks let’s be responsible. Here are some thoughts:

  1. Don’t be tacky. First of all, over-lighting your tree or your property is TACKY. There, I said it. You do not need the mechanical reindeer in your front yard. You do not need to hang fake blue icicles off your roof or wrap all your shrubs in strings of large white bulbs. Limit your lighting to a few well-chosen strings on your tree and maybe a few wrapped around your staircase, or a few candles in your windows. It will look classy and you will use less energy. (Look here for what NOT to do – UGH!)
  2. Turn them off. Don’t keep everything lit 24-7. There is no need. The effect is much nicer in the evening. Turn them on for an hour or two in the evenings. You can buy a timer for your lights – and you won’t have to worry about it. They are sold in most hardware stores or pick one up at Greater Goods on U Street.
  3. Use LED Christmas lights. LEDs are Light Emitting Diodes (you don’t need to remember that). They are made from tiny chips that directly convert electricity to light without the use of a filament or glass bulb. It’s like magic. Okay, actually, it’s like science, but the most important thing to know is they burn longer, they burn brighter, they burn much cooler (preventing the risk of fire from a dry tree) and THEY USE LESS ENERGY.

Important note: I am not saying that you should toss all your existing lights in the trash and rush out to buy LEDs. (You know I would never tell you that – I hate waste.) If you already have traditional lights, just use them wisely, use them less. If you are looking for new lights or more lights, buy the LEDs. You can find them right now at Home Rule on 14th St, NW and Eco-Green, which is a block away from Whole Foods on P St., NW in DC. I think some CVS stores are also carrying them. They are priced from $6.99 (at CVS for a short strand) to $24 for a 24 ft. strand. They come in several colors, shapes and sizes.

Happy lighting!

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