Whether you are traveling or hosting a dinner at home, the holidays are a time when energy use spikes and waste grows dramatically. Fortunately, there are lots of opportunities to save energy. Here are 14 simple ways to save energy during the holidays.
1. LED Christmas Lights
Lights are probably the most obvious source of energy consumption during the holiday season. If you haven't heard about LED lights, you've heard of them now. These lights only use around four watts per strand or .004 watts a bulb. (Assuming there are 100 bulbs on a strand.) A regular strand uses about 34 watts per strand. You could power 8 strands of LED lights for the price of one standard light. LEDs can last about 20 years or 100,000 hours, whatever comes first.
2. Limit Use of Christmas Lights
Keep your lights off during the day. Put the lights on a timer. Only have them illuminated from the dusk till about 10 pm. There's no point in leaving them on all night. There's just no audience at four in the morning. Make sure the lights are off when you are not home. This also reduces the risk of holiday fires.
3. The Fireplace
The chimney is where your stockings hang with care. This is how Santa gets into your house. Cold air can sneak in here as well. The Alliance for Saving Energy has this to say about the fireplace. "While using a fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or opening the nearest window slightly (about an inch), closing the door to that room, and turning down the thermostat to 50 to 55 degrees. And don't forget to close the flue when you're done enjoying the fire."
4. Ditch the Caroling Cards
Ever get one those cards that plays a little melody when you open it? They are kind of neat, but they are kind of battery-powered as well. Worse yet, musical greetings are energized by button-cell batteries that can contain mercury, lithium and cadmium. Many people like to save their cards for reminiscing purposes, but when these batteries get old, they can leak their chemicals in your home's environment. That's not the in the Christmas Spirit at all. To be safe and eco-friendly, you have to recycle them. Recycling batteries filled with heavy metals takes a lot of energy. Save energy by not buying these cards. A handmade greeting card and a song from your eco-friendly diaphragm is a better idea.
5. Join the Caroling People
When carolers and other well-wishers come to your door, let them in the house or join them outside. Don't leave the door open while you watch them strut their musical stuff. You'll lose a lot of heat energy. Either invite them in to sing or join them outside.
6. Make Serious Choices About Meat in Your Holiday Meals
You may want to go all-out vegetarian this holiday season. Meat is more carbon-intensive than veg after all. You may have trouble convincing your family to eat a tofurkey. Your old coot of an uncle may say, "A pig would eat me it it got the chance. It's only fair that I get to eat it." And you may feel obliged to feed that uncle. So you'll want to make smart meat choices. Check the butcher shops in your area. Find one that gets its meats from local suppliers. Eat those animals that are native to the land you're in. Ever have sushi in Omaha, Nebraska? It's not worth it, but the steaks there are great. Eat cow in cow country. Eat seafood on the coast. This will reduce food miles and combustion energy.
7. Minimize the Holiday Banquet
Holiday meals are often the epitome of opulent dining. Food is cooked for days in all manner of dishes, crockery, pots and pans. Microwaves are employed. Stoves are preheated, post-heated and reheated. There is no need for all this cooking. It's bad for the health to overindulge. It's also bad on the energy bill. Reduce the amount of food you eat. Serve a simple but filling, well-balanced meal for all. Your energy bill will be smaller and so will your waistline.
8. Take the Train to See the Folks
Compared to the airplane, the train is a veritable green machine. According to seat61.com, a trip by train from London to Paris uses only 22 kg of CO2. A plane trip uses 244 kg of CO2. That's 11 train trips of CO2 per one plane trip. The shorter the distance, the less excuse you have to not take a train. At short distances, the time it takes to travel by both forms of transportation is comparable. With all the delays you can face as a frequent flyer, the train may even get you there faster.
9. Light Your Nativity Scene with Candle Lanterns
May I suggest illuminating those nativity scenes with candle lanterns instead of electric lights? It will give the nativity a more authentic look and cut down on energy bills. If you are using real hay in the nativity scene, make sure the hay and fire never combine.
10. Don't Buy Over-The-Top Electric-Powered Decor
I've seen blow-up illuminated snowmen that tip their hats with electric power. That's really neat, but so unnecessary. Plus, it's totally out of the Christmas spirit. I would go so far as to call that conspicuous consumption of the worst kind. What's wrong with the simple and noble wreath? Or a porcelain nativity scene? Or a dashing snowman? These crazy light-up, electric-powered, music-making, deluxe-o-matic decorations go too far. They are usually made of nonrenewable resources.
11. Buy Your Gifts Locally
An easy way to cut down on carbon emissions and combustion power is to ( buy gifts locally. Let's say that you live in Detroit, Michigan and your family lives in Kansas City, Missouri. Don't buy your gifts in Detroit, buy them in Missouri. Sure, if you see a sweater that can only be purchased in Detroit, by all means, get that sweater. The heavier your load, the more gas you consume. This is true for plane, train or automobile. Buying gifts after you've arrived in the town you are celebrating is a good way to save combustion energy.
12. Buy Your Gifts Online
Online buying is so pervasive that you can buy a gift online for anyone almost anywhere. For this scenario, you are buying a gift for your mom. She likes hats and lives in Boise. You live in New Jersey and aren't traveling to Boise this year. Your spouse is making you go to Syracuse. (Still with me?) OK. You go online and look up Idaho hatters. You buy a hat for your mother from an Idaho hat maker. They deliver it to your mother. You could have gone shopping for a hat in New Jersey and mailed it from New Jersey. That would have wasted energy. It is much better to purchase gifts locally for those who aren't local.
13. Beware Holiday Electronics Sales
Stay away from cheap electronics. There are plenty of high-quality electronics in the world. If you want to buy someone electronics, buy them high-end gear. It's liable to last longer, run greener and be more sustainable. For appliances look for Energy Star. Check out Consumer Reports to see what's top of the line and what's in line for the landfill. It takes a lot of energy to manufacture even the junkiest of electronics. Force those companies to make better gear by not buying their low-end wares.
14. Include Rechargeable Batteries
Nearly 40% of batteries purchased are purchased during the yuletide. One way to be the ecological hero is to include rechargeable batteries and a charger with your battery-powered gifts. Rechargeable batteries make economic and environmental sense. The longer something lasts the less energy is used in replacing it or recycling it. Rechargeable batteries save on packing waste, shipping energy and recycling energy. You can even get solar-powered battery chargers and be the greenest kid on the block.