Over the weekend my family and I had the pleasure of helping sort lights for the Holiday Light Recycling Drive with St. Louis Green. I love volunteering alongside my family, and the fact that proceeds from this event supported a great cause - Operation Food Search - made it even better.
The goal is for 128,000 pounds of waste to be diverted from landfills. The lesson for me as I sorted? Be careful what you buy!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? We do a lot of recycling these days. Maybe we should take a closer look at the first word in that phrase...reduce.
It is so easy to get caught up in consumerism, but what if we remember to refrain from making unnecessary purchases? Isn't that the most "green" choice of all? It may not stimulate the economy like "going shopping" but reduction makes good economic sense on a personal level.
One of our sorting tasks this weekend was to separate cardboard from lights, and in many cases there were brand new boxes of lights that had never been used. I kept wondering what scenario would lead to someone depositing brand new boxes of lights into the red recycling bins. But then again, I have some "extra" unused lights stored away in a box in the basement myself. Do you have boxes of unopened holiday lights at home? What future purchases can we avoid if only we remember step #1? Reduce.
I’m Dreaming of an LED Christmas...
As a lighting designer, one of my favorite things about the holidays is the lighting. I love the soft flicker of candlelight, the twinkling tree lights, and a warm fire in the fireplace. It’s the time of year when most everyone dons their Santa/lighting designer cap and changes the lighting in their home for a month. Whether you string icicle lights around the roofline of your entire house or just wrap a strand of lights around a tree or wreath, you are being faced with this question: to LED or not to LED?
Five things to consider:
1. Initial Cost - These lights still cost more than standard incandescent holiday lights. However, from the looks of today’s store shelves, LED will be your only future option. You already have to search a little to find the standard incandescent lights.
2. Energy - Over their lifetime, these lights will pay you back what you spent and more on your electric bill. Here’s what the Department of Energy has to say about it. (Scroll to the bottom for the Holiday Lights section.) This is all theoretical, of course. Reliability is improving all the time, but my personal experience with LED holiday lights has been about a 30% early failure rate. Perhaps I’m just unlucky. The lights are guaranteed, but time is precious – especially during this season.
3. Color - As with all of the new technologies there are choices to be made about color. At least with Christmas lights we are used to thinking about color! Look at the samples before you make your selection. Some white lights are more blue in color while others look more yellow. Which look do you want? The icy wintry blue look or the warm glow of the yellowish lights?
4. Environment - To be environmentally responsible, don’t use any lights at all. To be both festive and environmentally responsible, just make sure you don’t add more lights since you’re saving energy with LEDs. Better yet, consider the solar LED products that are hitting the shelves today. You will still contribute to sky glow, but you won’t be consuming electricity with your light display.
5. Recycle! Remember – when you do toss out all of those old strands of lights - recycle them! In the St. Louis area, we are partnering with St. Louis Green to recycle 128,000 pounds of lights this year. That’s literally tons of waste that will be diverted from landfills. And hopefully every one of those strands will be replaced with a lower wattage, longer lasting option.
Tell us about your experience. Do your LED holiday lights work well? Have you noticed a difference in your electric bill? Have you had any luck with solar LEDs?
...May your days be merry... and bright!
'Tis the Season to Recycle! Reduce waste and spread cheer this holiday season by donating your broken or unwanted holiday lights to St. Louis Green's 2012 Holiday Light Recycling Drive! This year, St. Louis Green hopes to divert over 128,000 pounds of lights from entering our landfills. And not only does the Drive help protect the environment, but it also helps feed the hungry. A portion of proceeds from the drive is donated to Operation Food Search, helping those less fortunate to have a happier holiday season. Learn more at http://www.stlouisgreen.com/Holiday-Light-Recycling-Drive.
Lisa J. Reed, lighting designer and Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC