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Shades of green: holiday lights need more green

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Shades of green
“Shades of Green,” a new column on environmental issues related to the UIC campus and community, appears monthly in UIC News.

I can’t believe it’s officially the holiday season. Even as we work off our Thanksgiving dinner and desserts, it’s time to start planning for the festive season.

My neighbor and I have a decoration competition for every holiday and I have to outdo her! But how can I balance my Clark Griswold’s tendency to light my entire house with my new goal to be more sustainable?

What I need is a new attitude for the holidays — to find ways not to waste.

Light emitting diode (LED) lights, which use as much as 80 percent to 90 percent less energy than standard incandescent lights, could save up to $50 on my electric bill this holiday season.

Another idea: find a tree farm with pesticide-free trees; after the holidays, drop off my tree at the Lincoln Park Christmas Tree Drop-Off event (or other locations in Chicago or the suburbs).

Presents can be wrapped in old newspapers, like UIC News (with my columns on the top). According to the Sierra Club, if every family wrapped three gifts this way, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. And perhaps I should send electronic holiday cards, rather than paper ones.

For the holiday feasts (ugh, I don’t think I can eat any more after Thanksgiving!), I’ll seek out local foods for family meals, use my dishes rather than disposable plates and not cook more food than we need.

Perhaps it’s time to buy meaningful gifts (my husband would love it if I cut back on the knickknacks) or green items such as canvas bags and homemade soap or jewelry. My gift could be an action or deed rather than a present, like an offer to babysit for my friends so they can have a night out, or a donation to a charity that means a lot to them.

I love the hustle and the bustle of the holiday season, the decorations and the lights.

But this holiday season, I’ll reflect more on its meaning and its effect on the environment, rather than my competition with the neighbor.

So look out – LED lights it is!

Monica Rausa Williams is assistant to the chancellor and a member of the Chancellor’s Committee for Sustainability and Energy. Send comments and suggestions to sustainability@uic.edu

Previous columns

Start off small when making home 'green' (11/12/08)

No more excuses! It's time to bike (10/08/08)

Measuring your carbon footprint (09/10/08)

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