How to Save this Holiday Season

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Agnes Han and Joy Luo

What is it we picture when we anticipate the Christmas holidays? The most iconic American Christmas includes a smiling nuclear family, gifts tumbling down from being piled too high, and a shining Christmas tree with a puppy laying under it. The bedecked and glittering Christmas tree goes hand in hand with Christmas itself. It’s an image of beauty, joy and happiness. Most of us, however, never even think of the costs of Christmas hidden in our bills at the end of the month.

Have you ever considered the national cost of fueling our Christmas decorations? According to Rhett Allain of Wired, keeping our Christmas trees alight for one month costs $233 million nationwide when using small mini LED lights. Lighting an entire tree takes 503 watts of power per family. So how would we go about saving some electricity and money this holiday season?

First, it’s quite helpful to use only LED lights as opposed to incandescent lights. LED lights use less wattage, and are fast becoming the standard for lights. They are durable, long-lasting, and efficient. A study done by Christmas Lights Etc shows that LED lights consume 80-90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last up to 100,000 hours, versus 3,000 hours for incandescents. In fact, assuming that a family uses typical outdoor decorations, the cost of lighting these decorations amounts to a mere $1.63 with LED lights.

During Christmas, there are also other expenses. Dishwashers and ovens work overtime. With house guests come extra clothes for the washer and dryer. To save water on these mechanical appliances, consider “skipping the sink” and using the dishwasher only for full loads. Some other tips concerning saving energy on dishwashers can be found at Compact Appliance.

And what about all of our Christmas gifts? According to the American Research Group, the average American will spend $929 this Christmas on gifts. This cost can be cut back with gifts that include gift cards or by taking advantage of seasonal sales. Gift-givers can also use their skills, like baking or art, to give some homemade presents including cookies or paintings, or download apps that utilize deal alerts.

All of these tidbits of advice sound like the words of a penny-pinching Scrooge, but there are also environmental benefits to cutting corners during the holiday season. During Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash than usual. This amounts to about an addition 25 million tons of garbage annually. And though the United States has made strides in saving energy on lights and appliances, the impact of wrapping paper is often the last thing on anyone’s mind.

In reality, though, Stanford reports that “If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.”

So while giving gifts, cooking and decorating this holiday season, remember to also give some gifts to Mother Nature . . . and your wallets!