LED lights

Think About the Environment this Holiday Season: Holiday tips from EPA’s Regional Administrator

By Judith Enck

Holiday themed LED lights are a great compromise

Holiday themed LED lights are a great compromise

When I was a kid, growing up in Greene County New York, my beloved father won contests for the large number of lights that he put on our house. I would note that entire power plants had to run in order to keep the Enck family house illuminated, so I’m now doing my penance with LED lights. There really is no excuse to double your electric bill or blow your budget around the holidays, so here are my tips for a more environmentally friendly season.

  • Remember to support local businesses whenever possible
  • Consider a small live indoor tree or plant that can serve as a holiday tree to be decorated year after year.
  • If you opt for a real tree, be sure to compost it after the season is over.
  • Decorate with LED lights and colorful reusable ornaments that don’t require electricity such as (reusable) ribbons.
  • Reuse wrapping paper or use old comics to wrap gifts.
  • Try not to buy unnecessary consumer products. Give experiences instead like tickets to plays or concerts as a way to spend time together.
  • Hosting a big event? Remember to stick to reusable plates and glasses to cut down on unnecessary waste.
  • Plan ahead for meals and parties so you don’t buy more than you need.
  • More tips here.

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section. Best wishes for a wonderful and sustainable holiday season and a very green new year!

This post was originally published to Greening the Apple during the 2011 holiday season.

About the author: Judith Enck is EPA’s Regional Administrator of and a native New Yorker who currently resides in Brooklyn.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A New Tradition for Holiday Lights

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

It’s that wonderful time of year again. Along the country roads and city streets of New England, our real-life world of brown leaves, brown grass and gray skies turns into a captivating fairyland. Twinkling icicles line rooftops and color radiates from evergreen trees.

When it comes to the energy consumed by holiday lights, though, I’m hoping this year marks the tipping point. I can feel it when walking through the aisles of my local big box store, and I can see it as I drive along streets sparkling with a bluer shade of white.

In fact, we Americans are finally making the jump to becoming an LED nation when it comes to our holiday light strands.

According to the Associated Press, one major national retailer is selling no incandescent Christmas lights at all this year. General Electric also expects two out of every five strings of lights sold this year will be LEDs. The drop in prices has been a major factor in ushering this trend forward.

LED lights will last far longer than our old lights. The LEDs can last up to 40 seasons, while the Department of Energy predicts three seasons for your old mini lights. LEDs are also less likely to break and don’t get hot.

According to the US Department of Energy, holiday lights use enough electricity to power 200,000 homes for a year. EPA calculates that if all decorative light strings in America met Energy Star requirements, national electricity usage would drop 700 million kilowatt hours a year and we would save about $90 million on electric bills.

Over 10 holiday seasons, the savings for one tree could be $105 for the large LED bulbs and $22 for the minis. Multiply that by a yard full of strands lit up all season, and it really adds up.

Many stores now display a variety of LED lights. Some are warmer in color, while some are brighter. EPA’s Energy-Star label on some boxes can also guide your decision.

All these lights are out there waiting, vying for our attention and waiting for us to come to our senses.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in a great Maine community with her husband, children and many pets.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Light and Darkness, Part II

By Amy Miller

My affinity for winter’s darkness is inseparable from my love of light, including the cacophony of colored, white, LED, incandescent and just plain discordant bulbs that turn on the landscapes of New England each December.

As I drive through my bejeweled town, though, niggling questions flicker along with the icicles.

Questions like: How much does it cost to light up a house like Fenway Park? How much would a restaurant laced in traditional yellow white bulbs save by switching to the bluish and still much-reviled LEDs? How much do we spend on our decoration if we do a tree full of lights and a single outdoor strand? And most important of all, how long will it take for us to stop seeing the LEDs as cold and ugly?

Millions of lights are purchased each year and millions of dollars spent electrifying our yards. Statistics given by Dow Jones say lighting a six-foot Christmas tree 12 hours a day for 40 days can cost anywhere from $25 for the larger incandescent bulbs to under $1 for LED strands. Lighting your lawn can cost in the hundreds (or more), depending on your taste, budget and bulbs.

A typical house full-out decorated with tons of incandescent lights, motorized characters and lots of lit objects might use, say 2,500 watts, which costs 28 cents an hour. Over 40 days that would cost the homeowner with incandescent lights about $135.

But the equation changes with LED lights. Most incandescent bulbs last about 1,000 hours, while the majority of LEDs burn for 50,000 hours. And each bulb gives up to 10 times more energy. For example, the amount of electricity consumed by just one 7-watt incandescent bulb could power 140 LEDs — enough to light two 24-foot strings.

Furthermore, LEDS don’t break nearly as easily and many of them come with a three-year warranty. Oh, did I mention that LEDS stay cool, reducing the risk of fire.

So, what I really want to say to all of you – all of us – who resist the hues on the LEDs is: Get Over It!
Yes, I still have the mini incandescent bulbs on my tree. And yes, the strand was cheaper in the short-run so I was pound-foolish. But those .4-watt lights will run me 10 times as much in electric bills.

On paper, there is no comparison. Back in the real world of Main Street, however, change will be slow and creeping. Eventually, though, we will come to see the icy LED lights as just as pretty as the muddy old yellow ones.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How to Have a Green Holiday Without Environment Blues

By Kelsey Sollner

‘Tis better to give than to receive, but that doesn’t mean you should make the environment pay the price. Here are some tips I’ll be doing this holiday season to reduce waste, save energy and spend less money.

  • Before going gift shopping, I make a list of exactly what I need and plan my route so I will make as few stops as possible. A successful shopping trip is one where I can buy what I need all in one shot. This saves me time and gasoline.
  • We’re switching to decorative LED holiday lights in my household. They use less energy and last longer than traditional incandescent lights. We also use a timer to automatically shut them off during daylight.
  • When hosting big holiday parties, I turn the thermostat down a few notches. As guests trickle in, the temperature becomes comfortable and not too stuffy.

Here are some more things you can do for a greener holiday:

  • Skip disposable flatware when entertaining. Use cloth napkins and reusable dishes, glasses and silverware.
  • Buy a live cut tree or a potted one you can plant after the ground thaws. Check with your local solid waste department about recycling trees after the holidays are over.
  • Instead of buying new rolls of wrapping paper, wrap presents in old posters, maps, calendars, sheet music, wallpaper scraps, reusable cloth bags, kids’ drawings or newspaper. Give gifts that don’t require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates. If you must use wrapping paper, avoid foil and plastic-wrapped paper, as they are not recyclable.
  • Consider the durability and usefulness of a gift before you buy it. Cheaper items may wear out more quickly, making waste and costing you money.
  • Compost your food scraps whenever possible.
  • Consider using a digital camera instead of a disposable one. You will save money on film and reduce waste.

Incorporate these tips into your holiday routine and you can have a greener, cleaner home this season. Remember, spending time with loved ones is what the holidays are about, not material things. How will you make your holiday greener?

About the author: Kelsey Sollner is a senior from Susquehanna University majoring in journalism. She works as an intern in the EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Winter Tips: Make Your Home Warm and Green

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By Lina Younes

The Holiday Season is just around the corner. As we create a welcoming environment to entertain family and friends during the holidays, let’s think of some tips that will warm up our home while saving us energy and money, too.

  • First, in order to maximize the efficiency of your heating system, you should clean the air filters regularly.
  • Secondly, seal air leaks throughout the home to stop drafts. By sealing and insulating properly your outer walls, ceiling, windows, doors, and floors, you will improve the energy efficiency and comfort in your home. You can actually save up to 20% on heating costs on your annual energy bill if you follow this tip.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to automate your heating and cooling system and avoid wasting energy unnecessarily when there is no one at home.
  • Use Energy Star appliances and electronics to save money and use energy more efficiently.
  • Are you installing decorative lights at home to get the family in the holiday spirit? Consider LED decorative light strings. Did you know that for every three Energy Star qualified decorative light strings purchased, you could save $30 over the lifetime of the lights?
  • And, don’t forget to turn the lights off when you leave the room to save energy! I know that is something that I have to remind my youngest all too often.
  • Are you in the mood to sit around the chimney this evening? Remember to burn wisely! For example, choose the right firewood. Keep your chimney clean. And use the right type of wood-burning appliance. By following these simple tips, you can protect your health, reduce air pollution and save money.

So, do you have any special plans for the holidays? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Think About the Environment this Holiday Season: Holiday tips from EPA’s Regional Administrator

By Judith Enck 

When I was a kid, growing up in Greene County New York, my beloved father won contests for the large number of lights that he put on our house. I would note that entire power plants had to run in order to keep the Enck family house illuminated, so I’m now doing my penance with LED lights. There really is no excuse to double your electric bill or blow your budget around the holidays, so here are my tips for a more environmentally friendly season.

  • Remember to support local businesses whenever possible

    Holiday themed LED lights are a great compromise

  • Consider a small live indoor tree or plant that can serve as a holiday tree to be decorated year after year.
  • If you opt for a real tree, be sure to compost it after the season is over.
  • Decorate with LED lights and colorful reusable ornaments that don’t require electricity such as (reusable) ribbons.
  • Reuse wrapping paper or use old comics to wrap gifts.
  • Start a new card tradition. My friend, Laurie Valeriano and I send the same holiday card back and forth to each other. We read old messages we wrote over the years and they are great memories.
  • Try not to buy unnecessary consumer products. Give experiences instead like tickets to plays or concerts as a way to spend time together.
  • When purchasing gifts, I try to select things that are useful, fun and environmentally sound. This year, several people on my list will be getting seltzer makers so they don’t even have to recycle bottles any more, they can just reuse the same ones.
  • More tips here.

Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section. Best wishes for a wonderful and sustainable holiday season and a very green new year!

About the author: Judith Enck is EPA’s Regional Administrator of and a native New Yorker who currently resides in Brooklyn.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Let's Make Black Friday A Green Friday

By Brittany Gordon

The Thanksgiving leftovers have barely been touched, and already it’s time to start thinking about hitting the stores for that perfect holiday gift. Ready or not, holiday shopping time is here, and EPA’s ENERGY STAR program wants to help you pick the perfect gift, that will keep on giving for years to come.

So, what’s on your list this year? Perhaps a new TV for Dad? Maybe a new video game system for the kids? No matter what you plan to buy, there is a great chance that you can find it with the ENERGY STAR label. With over 60 different kinds of products to choose from, there is an energy saving gift for every person on your list. Let’s face it…anyone can pick out a great gift. But choosing a present that will save your loved ones money –and helps protect our environment– is the gift that they will never forget.

If home entertainment is on your list, the ENERGY STAR label has everything you want. From Blu-ray disc players to home-theaters-in-a-box, you cannot go wrong giving the gift of energy efficient entertainment. If a brand new TV is on your wish list, just check out this statistic: ENERGY STAR qualified TVs use about 40 percent less energy than standard models!

You can also find the ENERGY STAR label on a slew of office products, including the latest in computer technology. Many gifts also use ENERGY STAR qualified battered chargers, like video game controls, digital cameras and even cordless lawn mowers. Looking for the ENERGY STAR when purchasing these products means a 35 percent energy savings compared to conventional chargers.

Once you have purchased all of those gifts for other people, don’t forget about fighting climate change in your own home. Before trimming the tree, make sure the on LED decorative light strings have earned the ENERGY STAR. These light strings use 75 percent less electricity than conventional incandescent light strings, and they come in a great selection of colors, shapes and sizes.
Hopefully you are now armed with a long list of gift possibilities that are good for both the environment and the wallet. Happy shopping!

About the author: Brittney Gordon is a member of the ENERGY STAR products communication team. Previously she worked as a broadcast journalist at TV stations in NYC, Erie, PA and Baltimore, MD.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.