We love the holiday season — the decorations, starry lights, religious displays and multicultural celebrations that light up cities and towns everywhere from November to January. – Family Travel Forum
Never has there been a better time to enliven darkness with celebratory holiday lighting. Locally, nationally, globally, people need happiness and hope, not gloom about a dark winter.
Millions decorating with Christmas lights, good neighbors and citizens all, will not be denied. In the energy capital, the Houston Chronicle captured the mood with this comment from one super-displayer:
It has been such a crazy year, and I am seeing lights going up all over in the neighborhood. People are ready to get to some happy. Christmas is my favorite time of year — I just love it, and I love going all out for it. This is a different kind of year, but we will be positive and make the best of it.
“Everyone is going full guns,” said another. “We all want to see a little Christmas.”
Expect record lighting this December to end 2020’s darkness. The National Retail Federation estimates higher expenditures for lights and other seasonal decorations. More and bigger Christmas trees—some 50 million—will house much of the decor.
Holiday lighting began with the wealthy putting wax candle holders on their Christmas trees. The first electric lights in the U.S. were displayed by an executive of the Edison Electric Light Company in 1882, and a new tradition was born. By the mid-twentieth century, strings of electric lights became commonplace. That tradition happily continues and has grown since.
More lighting means more electricity usage. The good news, to be celebrated throughout the year, is that natural gas, coal, and oil have become more affordable, plentiful, clean, and reliable to meet present and future needs for power generation. Nondepletable human ingenuity is increasing mineral energies—which consumers voluntarily prefer and which require no taxpayer subsidy—faster than they can be consumed.
The 21st century is shaping up to be a fossil-fueled one for all the right reasons.
Listen not to the Malthusians and statists who complain about conspicuous consumption and harm from celebratory lighting.
“So before plugging in your lights, and without becoming a Grinch, this is what you should know about the environmental consequences of decorative lights,” said one critic.
According to the Department of Energy report, holiday lighting consumes more than six terawatt-hours per year, the equivalent of the total electricity consumption of 500,000 homes in one month…. The energy used in powering seasonal lighting results in the wasteful burning of coal, oil, and natural gas. The unwanted byproducts of this can include smoke, acid rain, and carbon dioxide emissions.
The decade-by-decade, year-to-year declines in real pollutants speaks for itself. Emissions of CO2, meanwhile, a nonpollutant, are a greening agent for trees and plants—even for your just-cut Christmas tree.
But the Malthusians remain sullen. “Sadly, Christmas is inarguably one of the most unsustainable times of the year, between single-use decorations, unsustainable gift-shopping, and gift wrap,” laments GreenMatters.
One of the holiday season’s greatest offenders … is Christmas lights — many people light their homes and lawns all day (and sometimes all night) — and although maintaining 24/7 jolliness is a must, lowering your environmental impact as much as possible is absolutely vital.”
Sustainable Joy is the catchword for the judgmental eco-obsessed.
Add “light pollution” to their qualms. “With the holiday season, the intensity of light pollution only increases,” said a representative of the United Green Alliance.
Ideally, there would be a public outcry against bigger causes of light pollution, such as street lamps and tall buildings. But until that happens, the simplest thing that one can do is to not put up any Christmas or Hanukkah lights.
Forgo those lights, a UK environmental group opines.
Christmas tree lights tend to be switched on for an average of ten hours a day, which produces enough CO2 to fill five party balloons, if they happen to be incandescent bulbs…. Another way to be sustainable with Christmas decorations is by creating your own. Although times are hard with COVID-19, you could go on a walk to collect some sticks and create ribbon tree decorations!
Christmas crackers come in for a spanking. In the UK, environmentalists want to “ban your Christmas bonbon …. to reduce waste.” Plastic toys are on the firing line too.
Holiday lighting is a wondrous social offering—a positive externality in the jargon of economics—given by many to all. The energy enabling Christmas lights is becoming more sustainable, not less, despite myriad government interventions to force expensive, unreliable, infrastructure-intensive substitutes (think industrial wind turbines and solar arrays) into the mix.
But forget the politics for the rest of the year. Add light to enliven darkness and elevate the mood. It’s all sustainable and otherwise as pure as the driven snow.