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Plan for a greener 2010 holiday

January 01, 2010|By Gustavo Grad

Whatever your understanding of what life is all about, the holidays are a ritual practice that brings people together. There are different ways people go about this, but we all enjoy getting together with friends and family, the meals we share, and the cool stuff we get under the tree.

The question I have had for too long is what happens with all the trash we generate the day after. When a Christmas tree appears on the side of the road, and then another one, this ends up multiplying by the thousands those trees that sadly end in the trash.

It’s no question that for all the joy around the holidays, there is too much waste involved. The amount of garbage increases up to 25% during the holidays. That means an extra 5 million tons of trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. That’s why the Saturday after Christmas when many rush to buy more stuff, my wife and I made the first year-end resolution for a “Green Holiday in 2010” — to do more with less, with the extra reward that when saving money, energy and resources we are doing good for the planet. And we’ve come up with ideas we believe can make the biggest impact on the environment.

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The first is that the lighted decorations around the house are to be on a switch or timer to reliably turn off during daylight hours and bedtime to reduce energy costs. We also decided to complete the transition we started outdoors with LED lights for the tree, replacing the traditional incandescent bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LED).

These lights have many benefits over conventional lighting: from 90% energy-efficiency when compared with an incandescent mini-lights, a longer life span of up to 100,000 hours when used indoors, and no chance of combustion because the bulbs are cool regardless of how long they are on.

Despite a higher initial cost, LEDs are a clear winner over incandescent when you spread the cost over the years. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if everyone replaces their conventional holiday light strings with LEDs, at least 2 billion-kilowatt hours of electricity could be saved.

As for the tree, even when almost all seasonal ones sold are grown on tree farms, we just don’t like to kill a tree to decorate the house. The alternatives then are to buy or rent a living tree that can be replanted come January. Living trees also contribute to positive indoor air quality, and avoid the presence of carcinogens found on the fire retardants applied to cut trees in the house.

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