Christmas Consequences


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It's that time of year again, everywhere around campus Christmas lights are going up. Christmas lights make an environment feel cozy, welcoming, and festive. Displaying these lights has long been a part of holiday tradition, and each year, these light displays grow to be brighter and more extravagant. People tend to not think about the energy wasting aspect of it, but I'm going to be exploiting that today.

This problem is called light pollution. According to Wikipedia, light pollution, also known as photopollution or luminous pollution, is excessive or obtrusive artificial light. This pollution alters the levels of natural light and degrades its surrounding habitats. This problem is widely seen around big cities such as New York City and Los Angeles. Christmas lights are indeed beautiful but they also require a lot of energy and waste a lot of our Earth's resources. A study by the Department of Energy reports that holiday lighting utilizes more than six terawatt-hours per year. This is the same as the total electricity used in 500,000 homes in one month alone. Compare this to the quarter of the world population that doesn't even have access to electricity. What are we doing to our world? Sure we want to make our environment look festive, but is it worth all that energy? Seasonal lights waste energy such as the burning of coal, gas, and oil. The byproducts of non-renewable resources include acid rain, smoke, and carbon dioxide emissions. So in the end, it's not so pretty after all. 

Indoor Christmas lights are even worse. Each bulb used in Christmas lights are increasing unwanted greenhouse gases. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the carbon dioxide used in all the holiday lighting around America can heat up 15,500 hot air balloons. Just to put things into perspective, hot air balloons are also notorious for emitting green house gases, about 378.1 kilograms of green house gases are emitted per usage. Therefore, 15,500 hot air balloons multiplied by 378.1 kilograms equals exactly 5,860,550 kilograms of green house gases emitted into the Earth. So even though most people believe global warming is too colossal of a problem for us to control, little did we know flicking on our beautiful Christmas lights for long hours of the night could make that huge of an impact. 

If you feel guilty about the Christmas lights hanging in your room, have no fear! There are better alternatives to the traditionally toxic and inefficient lights. Light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs are the best alternative to Christmas lighting. Tim Naughton, a man who runs an LED light online store, explained how LED Christmas lights used only one-tenth of the power used by incandescent lights (normal Christmas lights), they also last ten times longer with an operating life of more than 20,000 hours. An immense amount of energy can be saved, not to mention money as well. The usage of incandescent lights utilizes 480,000 kilowatt-hours, whereas LED lights only use 31,000 kilowatt-hours, that's more than 15 times less energy used in LED lights. LED lights may be more expensive, but if you do your calculations right, they are more energy and money saving in the long run. 

In our generation, it is important to start realizing the consequences of wasting energy. We live in a generation in which we will witness the day non-renewable resources run out, unless we do something about it. We live in America where we take many things for granted. Not everyone in the world has access to energy and water like we do. Making these small changes in our lifestyles can actually make a huge impact in the world, all we have to do is try.

After reading this, would you make the switch to LED lights?

PS: If you're considering buying new less energy wasting Christmas lights you can browse here: http://www.lights4fun.co.uk/ . All of these lights save energy and look just as beautiful.

Works cited:
http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/how-do-you-save-energy-during-holidays
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=electricity-gap-developing-countries-energy-wood-charcoal
http://www.cereplast.com/wasted-energy-the-environmental-consequences-of-holiday-lighting/

2 Comments

After reading this blog I would definitely switch to LED lights- the benefits outweigh the cost when considering long term effects. I also think it is important to consider these energy alternatives all year round; just because it is a time of year in which we pay attention to the decorations and their influences on resources and our environmental health doesn't omit the other 11 months out of the year in which residents across our country overuse the luxuries of our many resources.
In addition to lights wasting energy and releasing green house gases, in 2008 Discovery News published this (http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/12/23/christmas-lights-lead.html) news story about the potentially hazardous amount of lead Christmas lights contain. The article states that lead "as a stabilizer in the PVC coating on many types of electrical cords. It helps protect copper electrical conductors from light, heat and moisture." Although it may be stabilizing, lead is also "a toxic metal that can disrupt brain development, especially in kids, causing learning disabilities, aggressive behavior, loss of IQ points, and more..." It seems to me there are even health issues correlated with Christmas lights. There was no direct connection able to be proven, but it seems a correlation exists.
A consumer in California noticed a lead warning label on the lights and looked further into it, conducting an experiment with some colleagues, they "collected 10 sets of Christmas lights -- some new, some more than 30 years old. Using gauze and distilled water, the scientists wiped a 3-foot section of cord on each set. They sent the samples to an independent lab for analysis.

The results, which appear in the December issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, showed detectible levels of lead in every sample. "

Companies took action and made recommendations and alterations for their product, but your blog definitely shed a light on this issue and raises further question on if these decorations are worth the risk.

Sorry I incorrectly attached the article in which you can read regarding the amount of lead found to be in Christmas lights: HERE

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