Many years ago, I participated in an energy-use roundtable. Sitting around the perimeter of a hotel ballroom were representatives from energy producers (utility companies) energy program authors/administrators, governmental agencies and manufacturers. Many aspects of energy use were discussed, but I have been unable to forget the continual pleas from the Canadian utility representatives for more energy efficient holiday lighting. Throughout the day, it was brought up multiple times by all of the electrical producers in attendance. Finally, at about the three-quarter mark in the proceedings, one of the Americans asked what many of us were thinking. “Holiday lighting has been mentioned multiple times by every Canadian sitting around this table. Could someone explain why?”
At that point, all of the Canadians (knowingly) giggled. One of the members of the contingency from BC Hydro, the electric producer for the British Columbia province swallowed his laughter and helped us ill-informed Americans with a little known fact. According to the utilities, Canada is the world’s per-capita leader in the use of holiday lighting. (I have no way of confirming this, but if anyone should know, it was these electricity executives.) The period of time from the second week of December to sometime in mid-January represents the largest levels of electric consumption over the entire year. All production must be geared toward that six to eight week period of electricity demand. ANY reduction, however small is considered a gift to producers. Simply put, holiday lighting dictates their business.
This meeting occurred at the heady early days of energy efficient lighting. Much has changed since. Canada outlawed anything other than LED holiday lights and both Canada and America have made significant strides toward better lighting. Knowing that, let me leave you with a few holiday lighting tips.
- Outdoors, it is best to remember, less is more. Clark Griswold probably doesn’t live in your neighborhood, but even if he, or his ilk do, your home will be better noticed with a subtle application of festivity.
- Many people love to set up a “spot light” on their front door for the holiday season. I’m not sure when and why this started, but here we are, stuck with tradition. In this regard, I urge you to revolt. DO NOT light your front door with a spot! Don’t give your relatives an opportunity to quote Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Bruce Springsteen or The Weekend (depending on age!) Aim the spot on a beautiful tree and save yourself a New Year’s law suit because your great aunt was unable to see the porch steps. (We’ll ignore the fact that she had a fourth egg nog.)
- Telemarketers have been advertising a child’s “cuddly toy” that shoots light out of its belly, delivering a celestial pattern onto the nursery or bedroom ceiling. Yikes! This thing scares the hell out of me! Without better information on the color of light, the lumen intensity and its impact on sleep, I’d run far away from this product. No one needs an insomniac youngster. Buy a stuffed narwhal or cobra instead. It will be safer!
Most importantly, have a wonderful holiday. Please overeat. Have one more drink. Tip your taxi/Uber/Lyft/Curb driver. Resolve to pay more attention to lighting in the New Year. Of all resolutions, this is the one that will deliver dividends for many years to come! Life is too short to live with poor lighting.