Did you notice last year? LED tree lights, the newest entry in eco-friendly Christmas decorations, literally flew off the shelves. Overall LED sales reportedly reached – are you sitting down? — a staggering $7.4 billion in 2009. This includes LED icicle lights, LED Christmas tree lights and other kinds of household LED lighting.
But are LED Christmas lights really the eco-winner they're cracked up to be? Like “organic” and “100% natural,” “green” is an elastic concept. And there is definitely an eco-friendlier alternative to LED Christmas lights, but more about that in a minute.
One thing is sure: LED Christmas lights use less energy than regular incandescent Christmas lights. So compared to the large Christmas string lights and even the miniature Christmas lights you may have grown up with, LEDs are the better choice from an energy point of view. In addition, they make sense for outdoor Christmas lighting, because they don't require maintenance and have a long life.
Another thing is sure as well: LED lighting is here to stay. It has market traction, and the industry is promoting it enthusiastically. For example, one of the big building supply chains has just launched a recycle-your-old-Christmas-lights campaign, offering a discount on LED Christmas tree lights for every string of incandescent lights customers turn in. With this kind of jump-start early in the season, sales will be off the charts this year.
The Best Thing Since Granola?
Do LED Christmas lights fit in with the granola lifestyle? Though they draw less energy, it would be a huge stretch to call LED Christmas trees and LED tree lights a natural product.
The LED light cord is made of oil-based plastics (as are all light cords these days). And the LED bulb itself is encased in epoxy, a super-hardened chemical polymer. Though epoxy is widely used in several products, epoxy resin contains Bisphenol A, a noxious substance that has been banned from some consumer items. Some shoppers are trying to keep their living space free of chemical-based products including building supplies, wood finishes, home textiles, carpets, work surfaces, etc. Others just want to reduce the amount of plastic in their lives. These consumers may have second thoughts about LED Christmas lighting.
Safety and fire prevention are paramount concerns every Christmas season – rightly so. No Christmas lights can be 100% safe. But LED lighting is promoted as being especially safe. Despite this, problems can occur. Only a couple days after Halloween, big box marketer Costco announced that it was recalling a line of Christmas figures lit with LED lights that could start a fire, most likely an electrical problem of some kind. A problem like this, early in the shopping season underscores the fact that even LED Christmas lights are not necessarily risk-free.
Like a LED Balloon…
LED Christmas lights are pretty cool. But that's exactly the problem in some shoppers' eyes. They're too cool.
LED lighting has a different spectral quality. Some people feel it's heavy on the blues and light on the yellows, reds, golds and tans – all the colors at the toasty end of the spectrum. Granted, this is subjective. But if you're sensitive to the quality of light, LEDs may not be your choice, especially if you're aiming for a warm, cozy feel. The new lights get mixed reviews and go over like a LED balloon among some traditionalists and aesthetes.
Going Off the Grid
Christmas doesn't have to be a burden on the environment. Let's say you're serious about giving up your old incandescent lights and going green, but you can't quite warm to the idea of LED Christmas tree lights.
Fortunately, there's a low-tech alternative that uses even less electricity than LED holiday lights: Candlepower. In fact, Chrstmas tree candles will take you totally off the grid. They don't use electricity to produce light — just air. This makes them the greenest alternative to incandescent and LED Christmas lights. And from an aesthetic point of view they can't be beat. The sight of a Christmas tree bathed in the warm glow of natural candlelight will stop you in your tracks. It's mesmerizing. The wonderful, warm feeling it evokes is difficult to describe — it's something you have to experience.
You may opt to light your Christmas tree with candles because of their beauty or because they are 100% green. But safety must be your highest priority. Use the candles carelessly and you can cause a fire. But if you take your time, position the candles correctly and use common sense, you can enjoy them all during the holiday season with peace of mind.
For our grandparents and great-grandparents who celebrated Christmas in the pre-electric era, Christmas candles were the only option when it came to trimming the tree. But they didn't just melt the end of the candle and plop it on a branch. They used simple, ingenious candle holders, made specially for Christmas trees. Unfortunately, Christmas candles and Christmas tree candle holders fell out of use when electric Christmas decorations hit the market around World War I.
Finding a Source for Your Christmas Candles and Candle Holders
Two kinds of Christmas candle holders were used in the 19th century. One is the clip-on Christmas tree candle holder, or Christmas candle clip. The other is the pendulum Christmas tree candle holder, which has a stem that loops over the branch and a weight to hold the candle upright. But before you hurry down to the corner shop to buy them, you should realize that we're talking about a product that was forced into obsolescence and has basically been off the market for ninety years. It can be a challenge to find.
You won't find German Christmas Candles and Candle Clips at the mall and it's doubtful you will even find them at specialty shops. They are still being made in Germany, but ordering them retail from a shop in Germany can be difficult. The best solution? Find a reliable web dealer in the U.S. who imports Christmas Tree Candles and genuine German-made Candle Holders. If you live in the U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand or elsewhere, pick a U.S. web shop with experience selling to your country.
What will it be for you this year? LED Christmas lights or Christmas candles? LED holiday lighting will undoubtedly continue to grab market share. But candlepower is a subtle Christmas Game-Changer. It's not for everybody. But for those who like the idea of a “Slow Christmas,” it may be an option worth trying. It's as green as you can get and it's a way to send a message to your family, friends and neighbors to slow down, streamline and simplify.
Copyright © 2010 Kurt Donner. Use of this text in full, without changes and with attribution and original links, is permitted.