Santa will be coming down your chimney in about a week now, and you’re on the “nice” list because you’ve been practicing environmental-friendly behavior all year, right? Why stop with your holiday celebrations? As you give thought to all your blessings, don’t forget about all the energy sources that allow you to enjoy your holiday to the fullest. Here’s your guide to giving back to Mother Earth this holiday season, while still enjoying your family’s traditions.
Deck your halls with LED lights (fa la la la la…)
Why light your house with LED lights? You’ll save money and the environment with these superhero lighting systems. When choosing ENERGY STAR-awarded LED fixtures, these lighting systems have met strict efficiency, quality, and lifetime criteria. LED fixtures use 75 percent less energy than the traditional incandescent holiday lights. This means your energy bill will provide you with some holiday joy as it will be lower than most energy bills. LED lighting also reduces maintenance costs because they last 35 to 50 times longer than incandescent lighting and about 2 to 5 times longer than fluorescent lighting. This means you’ll use your ladder fewer times, as you won’t need to climb to replace the bulbs as often. LED bulbs, whether for everyday interior or exterior lighting or just for holiday decor, are also more durable than standard lighting.
If you don’t prefer the blue hues LED lights typically emit, be on the look for ‘warm white’ LED lights to imitate the non-LED hue. Check out LED colored lights if you typically enjoy colored lighting rather than white lights.
Cooking and cleaning your way to energy savings
The holiday season is a time to gather with family and friends for mouth-watering food you took all day to prepare. The preparation and cleanup process can easily contribute to a high energy bill, however, it’s not difficult to squash the stigma that comes with the holidays and your energy bill. Just change up your technique.
This appliance gets one of the toughest workouts during the holidays. Some of the traditional food requires a long, slow cooking process that, contrary to what the recipe may say, doesn’t actually require you to preheat your oven. With the exception of some breads or pastries, preheating the oven isn’t necessary to prepare some foods properly. When these foods are basking in the heat and cooking to perfection in your oven, use your oven light to check the cooking status rather than opening the oven door. The temperature can be lowered by as much as 25 degrees when the door is opened and some heat escapes. This drags out the cooking time and ultimately wastes energy.
Make the most of the energy you are using in the oven by placing more foods inside to cook. As long as you leave enough room between each dish for the heat to circulate, each plate will receive enough heat to cook properly in a decent amount of time. Keep in mind that glass or ceramic pans pick up more heat than a traditional pan, so you can actually turn the oven temperature down about 25 degrees and the food will be cooked just as thoroughly in the same amount of time.
This appliance can also be used in an energy-efficient way. By matching the size of the pan to the size of the stovetop, you won’t have to worry about wasted energy. More heat will be absorbed by the pan and to the food, while less will be lost to the surrounding air. For example, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner wastes about 40 percent of the energy used to heat the pan. Also, keep your burners and reflectors as clean as possible. Clean burners and reflectors provide better heating and save energy. Splurge a litte more to replace your existing reflectors with quality ones. Purchasing high-quality reflectors can save about one-third of the energy used when cooking with your stovetop.
This appliance isn’t as scary and energy-sucking as you think. Using a dishwasher to clean those dirty plates actually requires 37 percent less water than washing dishes by hand with running water. However, make sure your appliance is completely full before running it. Washing full loads will make it so you run your dishwasher less often, thus using less energy and water. If using a dishwasher isn’t an option, fill your sink with hot water and soap to wash the dishes instead of using running water to clean. Be frugal with your water, and ultimately, your energy.
Make the most of recycling
If you’re still deciding whether to install a fake or real pine tree this season, balancing the environmental effects might help you decide. Approximately 25 million-30 million real trees are sold in the nation every year, and about an acre of Christmas trees produce the daily oxygen for 18 people. It’s a sad thought that families cut down a 15-year-old tree for only a few weeks of yuletide joy, then dump the tree once the presents are opened and all the cookies have been digested. For artificial trees, however, eighty percent are manufactured in China, and most are made with PVC and other plastics that do not biodegrade. The scary picture here is that most contain enough lead to legally require a warning label. Risk lead poisoning or cut down a healthy, oxygen-producing pine tree? A new tradition you can have fun with is buying potted trees to replant, or “renting” your tree for the season (San Francisco received applauds last year for their Rent-a-Tree program). If you have a living potted Christmas tree, you can easily plant that little guy in your yard after your festivities, or you can donate it to Friends of the Urban Forest, which takes greens to plant in areas that lack greenery. For most tree rental programs, the city will pick them up after the Christmass season and plant them in a neighborhood that needs some greening. Choose a live tree if you can, living trees produce oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide. If you do choose to implement a live tree in your home, be sure to take the best route in recycling your tree.
Don’t skip the wrapping paper when you’re trying to have a “green” holiday. Instead, use wrapping paper that’s easy to recycle. Some of the common wrapping paper you see for purchase are difficult to recycle because of the materials used to make the paper. Wrapping paper is often dyed and laminated, and it can also contain non-paper additives, such as gold and silver coloring, glitter and plastics. Traditional wrapping paper can be very thin and contain few quality fibers that make recycling these products easy. Reusing the paper is an ideal short-term solution, however, the paper will end up in a landfill eventually. Approximately 4 million tons of wrapping paper ends up in landfills in the U.S., according to the EPA. Looking at the labels of gift wrapping paper can help you choose which products are easy to recycle. For an example of thinking outside the box, yooNmewrap.com offers reusable wraps and video explanations on how to use their products.
Minnesota is encouraging its residents to take part in their Recycle Your Holidays program, which is a program dedicated to recycling old and/or broken holiday light sets. Kramer Ace Hardware stores in northern Iowa are actually apart of the Minnesota-wide program and can be found in Mason City, Clear Lake, and Graner, Iowa. Other locations in Iowa include the Home Improvement Center in Ringsted and The Market in Armstrong. Separate from the Recycle Your Holidays program, Iowa City and Coralville areas have special collection bins that will be located at various drop-off locations for holiday light recycling. Contact your local recycling coordinator for questions regarding recycling in your area.
By instilling some of these energy-saving practices this holiday season you can make saving the planet a holiday tradition. Save money in the long run while also teaching the value of practicing environment-friendly behaviors to your family. With these ideas, you’ll be sure to be on the “nice” list for years to come.
Source: Facts About Recycling Wrapping Paper, Earth911
HOW TO: Green Your Christmas Tree, Inhabitat
Why Choose ENERGY-STAR Qualified LED Lighting?, ENERGY STAR
Winter Holiday Time Energy-Saving Tips, Consumer Energy Center