Green holidays can be perfect gift to nature

The holiday season can leave a mark on wallets after dishing out dough for lights, food, presents and trees, but the price of the holidays can go much further than monetary costs.

With environmentalism and sustainability on their minds, some people are trying to make the festivities more energy-efficient and eco-friendly while still maintaining holiday traditions.

One of the best ways to save energy and money is to switch to LED lights, said Michelle Decker, executive director of Rural Action, a nonprofit dedicated to regional sustainable development.

"LED lights have an incredibly long life, but they are a great deal more expensive,” Decker said. “What my family does is to add a new cord of lights every year, so we are switching older lights out over time.”

Putting lights on a timer can also help save energy and make them last longer, Decker said.

The lights being used to brighten Athens for the holidays have been switched to LED lights, said Ron Lucas, the deputy service-safety director for the City of Athens.

The lights are plugged into the top or bottom of the light poles, and due to the electrical setup, the lights stay on all day, Lucas added.

“In order to turn the lights off, they would have to be unplugged separately, because it is very difficult to shut off the power to individual light poles,” he said.

The lights draw little energy, but it is hard to estimate how much money the lights end up costing, Lucas said.

“It is difficult to discern what is being billed for the Court Street lights because the bills are not broken into specific areas or individual poles,” he said. “Based on our estimates, it looks like there is an additional $40 of cost to our Court Street-area lighting during the month of December.”

Aside from switching to LED lights, Athens can help promote a more sustainable holiday season by promoting local goods to students and residents, said Philip

Wight, a resident of the Ohio University Ecohouse and a master’s student studying environmental history with a consumerism focus.

“A problem with this time of year is that it’s very consumerist-driven,” Wight said. “Obviously the greenest option for gift giving is not buying anything, but I think the most important thing you can do is be creative.”

Shopping in thrift stores, giving family heirlooms, buying locally made products or giving someone an experience they’ll remember forever are better for the environment, and they mean more, Wight said.

“Ultimately though, the greenest good is the good that lasts longer,” Wight said. “Some things can last forever if you take care of them.”

Rather than purchasing wrapping paper, people can use reusable bags, shopping bags or newspapers to wrap presents, helping them to save money and be more eco-friendly, Decker added.

Christmas trees are important to a lot of people, but the type of tree used can affect the environment, said Megan Chapman, a master’s student studying environmental studies.

"Plastic trees will probably end up in a landfill, but with real trees, there are options available such as compost-exchange programs or replanting if you have a backyard,” Chapman said.

For Athens residents who use real trees, the City of Athens does a curb collection to gather them after the holidays.

In the end, though, the holiday season isn’t about the lights, presents or trees, Chapman said.

“Holidays are being with the people you love and giving thanks that you have the ability to live life the way you want to,” she said. “If, at some point, you can take a break and see what it means to you, you’ll recognize that it would be easy to go green.”

ao007510@ohiou.edu

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