By Sophie Quinton on Dec 3, 2010

Switch to LED, Recycle Your Old String Lights

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Holiday lights look so pretty strung along rooftops and twined around trees, but they can be an electricity drain. Luckily, by choosing LED lights, making smart decorating choices and recycling old strands, your home can still sparkle with holiday cheer at a minimal environmental cost.

Bulbs that carry the Energy Star logo consume up to 70 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Jonathan McIntosh

Super-efficient, light emitting diode (LED) lights come in a wide variety of colors and sizes, including icicle and rope lights. Bulbs that carry the Energy Star logo consume up to 70 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, helping you cut down electricity use and save money.

According to Dominion’s Holiday Lighting Energy Calculator, lighting your tree for 8 hours a day with two, 100-Bulb strings of LED lights will only cost 27 cents for one month.

While the savings seems small, consider this: If every American switched to Energy Star LEDs, we’d save 700 million kWh of electricity each year, achieving a greenhouse gas emission reduction equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road.

LEDs are also more durable. These holiday lights can last up to ten times as long as incandesents, and because they’re not made of filaments and glass, they won’t burn out or shatter. LED technology also makes neat effects possible, like dimming and color shifting.

Regardless of the bulbs you choose, built-in timers are a great way to keep your holiday lights efficient. Use your timer to turn off outdoor lights during the day, and turn off indoor lights when you’re not around to enjoy them – like after you’ve gone to bed.

For extra eco-points, consider decorating your garden with solar-powered votives and string lights, like these from Allsop Home and Garden. They collect the sun’s energy during the day, and light up at night, there’s no need for a built-in timer! Indoors, beeswax or soy based candles are a charming way to decorate without using any electricity.

As you’re sorting through your old decorations, remember that both incandescent and LED holiday lights are recyclable. By recycling your broken and outdated lights, you’ll keep the toxins in the electric cables from polluting landfills.

First, check to see if your local hazardous waste collection site accepts Christmas lights. If not, you can mail in broken or obsolete lights to a number of retailers, including Christmas Light Source in Fort Worth, Texas and HolidayLEDs.com in Jackson, Mich.

The Christmas Light Source sells your old incandescent lights to a local recycling facility and donates the proceeds to the Marine Toys for Tots foundation. HolidayLEDs.com will recycle your old LED lights for you, and will reward your eco-friendly efforts with a 25 percent discount on your next purchase. Check out Earth911.com’s Recycling Database to learn about other mail-in programs and find your local recycling facility.

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