UPDATED: 11/30/11 | Originally Published: 12/02/09
So what are the chances that you began decorating your house for the holidays right after Thanksgiving? I know that many families go out and get a tree once the turkey is eaten and the dishes cleaned, and if you're one of them, here's some food for thought: one of the biggest energy hogs at the holidays is your holiday lights. In addition, these lights can pose a fire risk.
So let's say you're in the market for new holidays lights: here are four ideas that show how going green with your holiday lights can save you green:
1. Recycle Your Old Lights
If you want to dispose of your old, broken holiday lights, did you know that you can recycle them? Just like your CFL light bulbs, holiday lights can be broken down and made into new materials. Check out some local hardware stores, which will sometimes accept traditional, incandescent holiday lights for recycling. You can also send in your old lights to places like HolidayLEDs.com, which will recycle the lights for you.
2. Buy Better Lights
If you do end up buying new holiday lights, consider purchasing LEDs. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, LED (Light Emitting Diode) lights have a bunch of "green" benefits. They use 10 times less energy than incandescent mini-lights and 100 times less energy than standard bulbs, they last more than 50,000 hours, and you'll likely not have to replace or recycle them for a long time since they're virtually indestructible. Here's the part I like best: If one bulb does burn out, the other bulbs will stay lit, so you can easily replace just the bad one.
3. Put Your Lights on a Timer
To further maximize holiday lighting savings, use timers to limit light displays to no more than six evening hours a day. Leaving lights on 24 hours a day will quadruple your energy costs — and create four times the pollution.
4. Practice Safe Lighting
On the safety side, be sure that you use indoor lights, well, indoors only — and lights designed for outdoor use outside the house only. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but many people make this mistake, and that's how fires start. According to Underwriters Laboratories — the folks that put that "UL" on safe electrical items — indoor-use only light strings are marked with UL's green holographic label. Indoor or outdoor-use light strings are marked with UL's red holographic label.
Everyone loves the look of twinkle lights; now we can take some small steps to make them as environmentally friendly as they are beautiful.