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Lighting Up Holidays the Green Way

Brightening the Holiday Spirit 

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I have started to decorate for Christmas. I love lights, and could never imagine a holiday without them. I know this is not very environmental, so I have researched ways to make it as environmental as possible. This year I have started my own collection of Christmas lights of my own. I decided that on short notice and low budget LED lights are my best option.

Holiday lights have become quite the tradition all over the United States. It goes along with the capitalistic/materialistic view of the holidays, which we have all been trapped into believing, me included. Lights are not only expensive to purchase, but all those lights on at all hours of the night take a toll on your electricity bill, as well as your environment.

LED, Your Gift for the Planet

  • According to the Department of Energy, Holiday lights account for more than 6 terawatt-hours per year, the total electricity consumption of 500,000 homes.  (The majority of lights being incandescent).
  • Incandescent lights burn out quicker than LED lights which last as much as 10 times longer.
  • LED lights have significantly less risk to cause a fire. LEDs also don’t contain mercury.
  • When LED lights started they were often not as bright or attractive as incandescent lights, but with the increase of technology, they are almost identical in my opinion, that is if you find the right brands.
  • LEDs use 80% less energy then incandescent lights.

Throw Away Those Old Lights? 

If you have large incandescence replace them now with LED lights. But if you have mini-incandesent lights you should keep your old lights (if they are still safe to use), until they burn out. Then I recommend switching to LED lights. . If you throw out all your perfectly good christmas lights it creates a huge amount of waste and pollutes the environment.

When you are done with your lights don’t throw them away! Find a local recycling program.

Home Depot offers a trade in where you can get a discount on LED lights. (Although this program has passed for this year watch for it next year). Similar programs can be found with discounts on LED lights such as on Holiday LEDs

Greenest way to Brighten Your Home? 

Solar LED lights have the least environmental impact of all the possible lights that you can use. Solar lights use the solar panel, (photovoltaic cell) which collects sun’s energy and converts it to electric current. The battery is used to store electricity until it is used. LED bulbs turn on when it is dark. Being a new technology they do have some differences in brightness and availability. There are mixed reviews depending on weather, so before buying them make sure your yard would be able to have adequate light.

Pros

  • Easy to setup: don’t have to worry about outlets and cords
  • Convenient: turn on automatically.
  • Safety: No extension cords, lights stay cooler.
  • Free Energy: solar powered

Cons

  • Initial Price: is expensive, but less electrical bills.
  • Sunlight dependent: Without adequate sunlight they won’t shine as long
  • Weather: snow, rain, cold/cloudy can prevent adequate sunlight.

What You Can Do to Keep the Holiday Spirit  

  • Instead of putting up every strand of lights you own, do a smaller presentation of lights.
  • Use LED lights instead of regular lights.
  • Use mini-lights instead of full-sized lights.
  • Turn lights off once you go to sleep.
  • If you live in a place where solar lights are functional use them instead.

What lights will you be using this year? Do you think LED or LED solar is a better option for you?

Those Christmas lights, Light up the street, Down where the sea and city meet, May all your troubles soon be gone, Oh Christmas Lights Keep Shining on

~Coldplay

Damn the big dams

Energy is needed

  • Increased power is needed in the rapid developing world we have today.
  • The need for electric power will continue to grow with the spread of urbanization and rising population
  • Many World Organizations and the World Bank got behind the idea of hydropower as a ‘sustainable’ way of producing energy.
  • Large Scale Hydropower does not benefit the local population and environment.
Some large dams include: 
Warragamba (Australia)
Chapeton (Argentina)
There are over 450,000 dams that are over 5 stories high.
Large scale dams have been built all over the world.
Countries with large dams include; the United States, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, China, India, and Australia.
Displacement of people
  • Displaced people are often not given the appropriate housing and living conditions (their cultural beliefs are not considered).
  • Displaced people are never given the compensation they were promised.
  • Those living downstream no longer have fisheries and water to support themselves.
  • Cultural artifacts and Archeological sites are lost.
  • Building dams destroys the land nearby through earthquakes created because of the pressure of the water collected by the dam.
Habitat destruction
  • Fish are unable to migrate upstream to spawn, decreasing the amount of fish available for food.
  • Huge amounts of habitat is filled with water.
  • Animals are disoriented by the sudden amount of water in their migration path, and they drown while trying to pursue their migration paths.
  • Downstream less water is flowing, which endangers the ecosystems.
  • Ecosystems are disrupted because many animals rely on the size, timing, and other seasonal changes to the water flow survive.
  • Wildlife living downstream can go extinct.

Water quality

  • In warmer climates dams create a breading ground for diseases such as Malaria and Schistosomiasis.
  • Increase in Salinization can occur. This causes natural salt to rise to the surface. Elevated groundwater and increased salt content has killed many trees and wetlands have been eliminated.
  • Sedimentation also occurs in large dams.
  • Hypoxia, a reduced oxygen content is damaging to aquatic life.
The picture below shows what Salinization does to the land.

I would highly recommend reading Jacques Leslie’s book Deep Water it is very educational and shows the consequences of dams in different places all over the world. I would warn you that the book is dry at sometimes, but the benefit from reading it is well worth it.

China admits Three Georges Dam has ‘problems’

Large dams will affect the community living near the dam in the long-term. Take for example the Three Gorges Dam, as the above video stated, it has had a significant effect on the drought in China.

Lesson learned

World Organizations, as well as the countries themselves, need to take into account the large impact building a big dam has on wildlife, culture, people, and weather. To be clear I am not against all dams, but there has to be a balance between energy demand and environmental consequences.

Did you know of the millions of people that have been displaced by dams? Do you think there is an equivalent compensation to them? There are many large scale dams being built in China, will anything be done to help the people who live there?

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.

~Thomas Fuller