The Environmental Effects of Holiday Lighting

Holiday lighting is a long standing tradition. Each year, cities and residents turn their holiday lights on, setting a festive, cozy tone for the winter season. We believe neighborhood light displays like Oly Lightstravaganza encourage neighbors to come out and meet each other. Neighbors building relationships with other neighbors promotes a variety of good things: familiarity, awareness and improved public safety. Over the years many a neighborhood project has had its genesis in a conversation between neighbors while visiting our display.

Holiday displays also have great success in collecting donations for local charities – we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to contribute a significant amount of donations for charity as well. We currently collect for the Thurston County Food Bank.

All of that said, there’s no doubt about it, holiday lighting is resource-consumptive. Electricity waste is undoubtedly a major concern – the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, resulting in smoke, acid rain and carbon dioxide emissions is no laughing matter. The US Department of Energy reports that holiday lights consume more than six-terawatt-hours per year, equivalent to the total electricity consumption of 500,000 homes.

Other issues include potential fire hazards posed by lights, waste produced from lights that die quickly and need to be thrown out regularly, and high lead content in light strings/bulbs, which can lead to significant human health effects.

With that understanding there are many steps that can be taken to significantly reduce the environmental impact of holiday light displays. Here’s what we’ve done (so far) to offset our impact: