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Proper Green: The Long Dark of Winter Solstice

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Winter solstice will have the sun’s light out early.


Dear Proper Green,

I heard that the shortest day of the year already happened, yet the winter solstice is this week. What is the winter solstice if not the shortest day of the year?

-Brett J., Fort Worth, TX

Dear Brett,

The shortest seeming day occurred during the first week of December (the exact day depending on where you live), when the earliest sunset of the year happened. But the shortest day in terms of total daylight is still December 21, this year’s winter solstice.

The winter solstice happens because the earth’s axis (the imaginary line running between the north and south poles) doesn’t stand perfectly straight in respect to the sun. The axis is tilted 23.5 degrees in one direction, which causes the seasons to change as the earth orbits the sun. For a few months during its orbit, the earth’s tilt points away from the sun, giving the northern hemisphere its winter. The winter solstice marks when the earth is both tilted away from the sun and furthest away from the sun in its orbit.

After the solstice, the daylight hours will gradually increase, but for now we’re dealing with the dark before it’s even dinner time. Less daylight can mean higher energy usage since we turn the lights on earlier and for longer, so be extra careful about needless usage. Besides turning off the lights, look for other ways to increase energy efficiency during winter time.

Do you know any creative ways to save energy when the days are short? Share them in the comments below!

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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more

  • dongbo l. 1 year ago
    cool, that is very nice :)
  • Faye and David S. 1 year ago
    We live in South Florida, so heating isn't really a concern on all but a few days of the year, (I like it cooler anyway), so as the sun sets earlier, lights may be turned on sooner, (we use CFL bulbs), but the Cebtral air runs A LOT less, so that more than makes up for the lights coming on sooner. Oh, and we have an on-demand tankless water heater, so we don't have that turning on an off all day trying to keep the water in the tank hot.
    • Faye and David S. 1 year ago
      Sorry, I'm typing an area that has low lighting and I missed the misspelled "central" in central air.
  • joanna l. 1 year ago
    By opening shades on southfacing windows on sunny days , you are using passive solar to make the room feel a little warmer.
    And parking in the sun in the winter will make the car feel a little warmer too.
  • joanna l. 1 year ago
    By opening shades on southfacing windows on sunny days , you are using passive solar to make the room feel a little warmer.
    And parking in the sun in the winter will make the car feel a little warmer too.
  • Scott N. 1 year ago
    You got the wrong map for the northern hemisphere! The map showing is for down under! Although, it is true that we are tilted away from the sun during winter solstice, the northern hemisphere is the closer to the sun during the months from January to March.
    • AmyS@Recyclebank 1 year ago

      Scott, you're absolutely right! I've altered the diagram to reflect the seasonal changes of the northern hemisphere. Thanks for pointing it out!