Beat Holiday Over-Consumption Without Going Grinch
When people think of holiday consumption, overeating and overspending are often the two major culprits that come to mind. But there is at least one more, less obvious culprit that many well-intentioned Americans commit: energy overconsumption. The good news is that smart consumption can be a big source of savings during this season of well-lit trees and eaves, ‘round the clock heating, air-powered Santa figurines and baking and lighting for housefuls of holiday guests.
Over the course of the holiday season, the average American household guzzles energy like eggnog. One report showed electric usage spiking an average of 39 percent during the holidays!
- Holiday lighting consumes more than 6 terawatt hours every year – enough to power 500,000 homes for a whole month!
- 15,500 hot air balloons could be filled with the carbon dioxide produced by U.S. holiday lighting.
- The average cost of lighting a tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with incandescent lights is $25.13.
At Sunrun, energy is our jam, so we think about it all year-round. Here are a few of our insider tips and tricks for saving energy – and money – during the holidays:
1. LED the way to efficient holiday lighting. I know, you might have some emotional attachment to your trusty old light strings that come down from the attic every year. But the next-gen LED holiday lights use somewhere between 70 and 90 percent less energy. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 10 LED light strings only cost 60 cents to operate for the holiday season. Not only that, they emit vastly less pollution and last ten times longer than traditional lights. An average string of LED lights has a 40-year life expectancy – that means not having to buy new lights for at least another 400 viewings of The Christmas Story.
2. Switch to solar. Get this: out of the 39% spike in household energy consumption over the holidays only about 3 percent is directly traced to holiday lighting. Things like other holiday decor, upticks in cooking and baking, and keeping the house warmer than normal for longer than normal with guests and parties all contribute to the issue. Seems like there’s no better time of year to give your family (and your bank account) the gift of solar power service. Sunrun owns the system and has it installed on your roof so you don’t have to lay out thousands of dollars upfront. Plus we maintain it and do all the research – easy peasy. You just pay a low rate every month for clean energy and have a fatter wallet.
3. Shop strategically. Reduce gas consumption and time you spend out in the cold by planning and consolidating your shopping trips. Map out your route ahead of time. To reduce doubling back you can use sites like Milo to ensure the store has what you need in stock and at the right price before you head there.
4. Take the paperless route. Instead of sending ‘dead tree’-style paper cards for holiday greetings and invitations, use sites like Evite and Paperless Post. You’ll also save on stamps, time, and post office madness.
5. Unlimit your gift cards. A massive number of store-specific gift cards are never used, only to be relegated to the landfill. Instead, give American Express or Visa gift cards that your loved ones can use anywhere, just like cash – so they can get what they want, where they want.
6. Stop bad battery behavior. Over 40 percent of the batteries that are purchased all year are purchased during the holidays. Switching from regular to rechargeable batteries might cost slightly more this month, but it’s much more convenient, less wasteful and more frugal in the long run.
7. Use your leftovers. Using your leftovers minimizes waste, first and foremost, but also saves on the cash and energy it takes to turn out new meals from scratch. Make eating them a little less painful by getting creative:
- Hold a potluck with neighbors so everyone can bring a leftover dish
- Donate all those dollar cans of peaches you overbought to a food bank
- Find quick, yummy recipes to transform leftovers into new meals, like these from Martha Stewart.
Data Sources: US Department of Energy, US Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Saving Trust,http://www.collegegreenmag.com/holiday-waste, http://www.ny1.com/content/ny1_living/consumer_watch/152493/experts-say-led-holiday-lights-last-longer–save-energy