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Shedding light on the latest holiday LEDs, plus some green holiday tips

Image of Elf projector in a winter setting
New holiday LED technology includes projection systems that offer the appearance of hundreds of lights from a single projector.

More efficient and easier to put up, holiday LEDs have taken hold in B.C.

For years, BC Hydro has been leading the charge in the switch to LED holiday lights. It seems most of you have made the transition.

Maury McCausland of London Drugs, a key participant in the province's recycling program, says the company receives only a few incandescent light strings for recycling at this time of year.

"A good majority have understood the message about the cost savings of LED holiday lights," McCausland says over the phone. "They're easier to put up and they look better."

The advantages of LED lights for holiday decorating

LED lights are more energy efficient and they last longer than incandescents, but LED technology also permits lights to be designed and configured in ways that just weren't possible before.

For example, an expensive electronic controller used to be needed to create dynamic lighting effects like blinking and cascading, but this functionality can actually be built right into LED lights themselves.

And LEDs are also available in strips and ropes that are flexible and can be connected together, something that isn't possible with incandescents.

Home Depot carries small strips of Martha Stewart Living LED holiday lights that are battery operated. Intended for interiors only, these light strips can be used to decorate areas where there isn't an easily accessible wall plug. No more extension cords stringing across that fireplace mantle.

Home Depot also has an Ecosmart line of LED lights that come with a seven-year warranty and have interchangeable bulbs.

Maury says that the newest holiday light is the Elf Light, a single, LED floodlight that projects points of light onto a house or yard, giving the effect of the entire area being covered in holiday lights. They can be configured into different shapes and sizes, and cover up to 625 square feet.

"You don't have to climb a ladder, you don't have to hang anything," says Maury. "It's quite amazing."

According to Maury, they're so popular that London Drugs has trouble keeping them in stock. The Elf Light is available at some other retailers, too, including Canadian Tire, which also sells a similar projector system from BlissLights.

Recycling old and unwanted strings of holiday lights

Most of the holiday lights that get dropped off to London Drugs stores for recycling, says Maury, are actually strings of LEDs that are ready for replacement. The problem isn't the lights themselves, he explains, but the wiring, which can crack and break.

If you do have lights that you want to dispose of, London Drugs is a good place to do that. "We recycle everything we sell," says Maury, and that includes all types and brands of holiday lights as well as "any light bulb of any shape and size."

The Recycling Council of BC (RCBC) has an interactive search that you can use to find other locations, too, and to find out where you can take other items to be recycled.

Make your holiday more green than usual

In addition to making the switch to LED lights for your holiday decorating, there are other ways you can reduce your environmental impact during the celebratory season:

  • Purchase rechargeable batteries to go with any new electronics
  • When buying gifts, consider their life span and avoid purchasing things that aren't durable or won't last very long
  • Consider alternative gifts, like those you make (baking, preserves), or a donation to charity on behalf of the recipient
  • Turn down your thermostat and put lights on vacation timers if you're away from home over the holiday
  • Drive less

Find other ideas to green your holiday season, including alternatives to gift wrap and Christmas trees, from RCBC.