A Watershed Moment: Tips for having a Green Christmas

Written by: Katie Venechuk

Christmas trees with light display at Frederick Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Christmas lights are a huge part of the holiday season and energy bills soar. To alleviate these costs, LED Christmas lights use 80 to 90% less energy than traditional Christmas bulbs, demanding wattage 10 times less that that of traditional mini bulbs, and 100 times less than traditional holiday bulbs. Over a 30 day period lighting 500 traditional holiday lights will cost you about $18.00, while the same number of LED lights costs only $0.19.  These bulbs last around 100,000 hours longer than traditional lights.  LED lights can last up to 40 years, if taken care of correctly.

An artificial tree versus a real Christmas tree has been a long debated issue of sustainability.  While it may seem that artificial trees are the more sustainable option since they are reused each year, real trees are actually the most sustainable option. Real trees can be replanted in your yard, donated to a park to be replanted after use, or chipped and mulched for your shrub beds or rain garden.  Each year an acre of Douglas fir trees can absorb 11,308.7 pounds of carbon dioxide and provide the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.  To put that into perspective, there are 500,000 acres of Christmas tree production in the U.S. alone.  Real trees are 100% recyclable and biodegradable, whereas artificial trees are neither.  When an artificial tree is replaced, it heads to a landfill where it leaches lead mercury, and other harmful toxins.

Another aspect of the holiday season that has a huge environmental impact is gift-wrapping. Half of the paper the United States consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. Annual trash from gift-wrap and shopping bags totals over 4 million tons in the U.S. alone.  For a wrapping that is immediately disposed of, this is utilizing a huge amount of natural resources.  If every person in the country wrapped just three gifts with sustainable material enough paper would be saved to cover 45,000 football fields.  Sustainable material includes: reuse of a gift bag or tissue paper that was gifted to you, fabric gift bags, comic strip, newspaper wrapping, old calendars, and posters.

Listen to the full interview here.

“A Watershed Moment” is a weekly radio program focused on environmental news and happenings in West Michigan, plus solutions for living a greener life.  Broadcast on WYCE-FM 88.1 on Tuesdays at 8:30am and 5:30pm, this program is produced by Grand Rapids Community Media  Center and West Michigan Environmental Action Council.

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