Dear Umbra,

Suppose I replace all my many old, tangled, not-so-efficient holiday lights with the newer LED lights. These are supposed to be better for the environment. What is the best way to dispose of my old lights?

R-M
Ottawa, Canada

Dearest R-M,

The LED lights are indeed better for the environment, and, since I’m frankly running out of winter holiday-related questions (see my previous work on Christmas trees, gift wrap, candles, consumption, leftovers, and snow removal), I’m going to dwell on just how much better they are.

Glow forth and multiply.

Photo: iStockphoto.

A lot better, people. We all know by now how completely inefficient the incandescent lightbulbs in our house are, how they have a pathetic filament, produce light via lifespan-shortening heat, and cost quite a bit more over time than our fabulous compact fluorescent bulbs. Holiday light strands are made up of tiny incandescent bulbs. It should come as no surprise, then, that they too are expensive — aka electricity sucking, aka an eco-dilemma.

Luckily, alternatives are now readily available in the form of light-emitting diodes. LED lights are costlier up front, to be sure, but look at the savings cited by my exemplary city: “The comparative cost for a season of holiday lighting (based on 10 strings of lights burning eight hours a day for 30 days at Seattle City Light’s second block residential rate of $0.0853 cents per kilowatt-hour) is $127.67 for large lights, $7.20 for mini lights, and $0.72 for the new LED lights.”

Say no more! Your holiday celebration need not require a new nuclear plant! Go with LED. Ecological, safer, cutting edge. If you can’t get LED nearby, please purchase mini-lights over the traditional-size holiday bulbs. (Another idea is to use solar-powered lights or snowpeople. Search freely on the internet for these; I dare not recommend a vendor.) If you feel super-pumped on holiday lighting, there’s much, much more to read on the topic, including safety and conservation tips.

As for disposal, unless you live in a city with an exchange program that swaps LEDs for incandescents — hooray, Oakland and Toronto! — the trash may beckon. Incandescent bulbs are not usually accepted by recyclers, but call your local recycling center just to check. I suppose you could donate your lights to the needy, but as we’ve seen above, you will only be fattening the needy’s electricity bill. The good news is, your new LED lights will last longer and each bulb is easy to replace, so the trash-reducing future is — of course — bright.

Kwanzaaly,
Umbra