A Free-Market Energy Blog

Holiday Lighting Humbug

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- December 20, 2018

Don’t drive. Don’t fly. Don’t eat red meat. And … don’t let yourself enjoy holiday lighting.

It’s not easy being green, they say. Well, gee, life is a bummer when you get the religion of deep ecology. Here are some (sad) examples from the seasons of good cheer.

“With the holiday season, the intensity of light pollution only increases…. Ideally, there would be a public outcry against bigger causes of light pollution, such as street lamps and tall buildings. But until that happens, the simplest thing that one can do is to not put up any Christmas or Hanukkah lights.”

 – Heidi Ward, “Holidays & Light Pollution,” United Green Alliance

“Do you love those displays of Christmas (or Hannukah or Kwanza or …) lights? Are you awed by those so impassioned that they string up 1000s of lights in awesome displays worthy of a city center? I once did, pausing on cold winter nights, white clouds issuing from my mouth, enjoying being in the glow of beautiful displays…. But … no longer … not for awhile…. I’ve reached the point of feeling like a Scrooge; feeling outrage over the tons of C02 going into the atmosphere via neighbors’ 10,000 light displays rather than feeling ‘joyous’.”

– A. Siegel, “Christmas Lights–Scrooge or Savior?HuffPost

“They were supposed to bring about an energy revolution—but the popularity of LED lights is driving an increase in light pollution worldwide, with dire consequences for human and animal health, researchers said Wednesday…. Experts say that’s a problem because nighttime lights are known to disrupt our body clocks and raise the risks of cancer, diabetes and depression. As for animals, these lights can kill—whether by attracting insects or disorienting migrating birds or sea turtles.

The issue isn’t just the LED lights themselves, which are more efficient because they need far less electricity to provide the same amount of light, explained lead author Chris Kyba, a physicist at the German Research Center for Geosciences. Rather, it’s that people keep installing more and more lights, he told reporters on a conference call to discuss the research.

‘We’ll light something that we didn’t light before, like a bicycle path though a park or a section of highway leading outside of town that in the past wasn’t lit,’ he said. ‘And so all of those new uses of light offset, to some extent, the savings that you had’.”

– Kerry Sheridan, “Energy-saving LES’s Boost Light Pollution Worldwide.” PHYs.org

Actually, here comes the Scrooge bit. There are those who argue their right to light up their garden, rooftop, etc, with full sled and reindeer illuminations with as much passion as others reserve for arguing their right to freedom of speech. Criticising these festive domestic displays is often held up as an act of snobbishness…. But aside from light pollution, a substantial environmental footprint is created by what the Energy Saving Trust terms an ‘extravagant light display’, which translates into the generation of 400kg of extra CO2 (and between £75 and £100 on a bill over the festive season). These are the lights I’d like to pull the plug on. Bah humbug, etc.”

 – Lucy Siegle, “Should We Pull the Plug on Festive Lights?The Guardian

“Miguel Roman, a scientist from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, explained that the dramatic change in lighting was unexpected. ‘We were really surprised to see this vibrant increase in activity during the holidays, particularly around areas in the suburbs with a lot of single-family homes, and a lot of yard space to put up lights.’ According to Globe At Night, an international organization dedicated to raising awareness about light pollution, excessive outdoor lighting has numerous adverse effects on the planet: it washes out stars in the sky, disrupts ecosystems of nocturnal wildlife, and wastes energy.”

 – Maham Abedi, “Reality Check: How Bad are Christmas Lights for the Environment?Global News

“It’s December, and that means holiday lights everywhere — strung along roof lines, windows, doors and trees. But all those festive lights aren’t good for the environment. They add to a bigger problem in both small and large cities these days: light pollution…. What is light pollution? It’s the overuse and misuse of light.”

 – Elizabeth Daigneau, “Blinded by Light Pollution.” Governing

“During each year’s holiday season, lights are strung everywhere, in the city and in millions of homes. Though the lights are a beautiful sight and symbol of Christmas, many Americans don’t realize that the holiday lights (and lighting in general) have a negative impact on the environment as well as on their own health.”

 – Angeli Mittal, “Tra-La-Light: Holiday Lighting to Health Declining,” Green Schools Alliance

“Lightings plays a major role in bringing in joy during festive season. During Christmas, people leave lights on all day which results in wastage of energy whereby causing light pollution. Though lightings appear classy, they consume a large amount of energy and are a huge waste of resources.

The US Department of Energy states that more than 6 TWh per year of energy is wasted due to holiday lighting, which is equivalent to the total monthly energy consumption of nearly 500,000 homes. The energy used for holiday lighting products is obtained from burning natural gas, oil and coal. As a result, unwanted byproducts are produced, which would cause carbon dioxide emissions, acid rain and excess smoke.”

 – Kris Walker, “Should We All be Using LED Christmas Light this Xmas?AZO Cleantech

“There is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crime. It may make us feel safer but it does not make us safer. The truth is bad outdoor lighting can decrease safety by making victims and property easier to see. Glare from overly bright, unshielded lighting creates shadows in which criminals can hide…. Another serious side effect of light pollution is wasted energy. Wasted energy costs money, contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, and compromises energy security.”

 – International Dark Sky Week 2019


  1. Charles Battig  

    All examples of, and vindications of the Jevons Paradox.
    Merry Christmas


  2. Tom O  

    And each of these whiners used electricity to write their comments. Talk about a waste of electricity, and the creation of greenhouse gas! If all the people that so fear greenhouse gases would only take every other breath, we wouldn’t need to be concerned! And if they REALLY are dedicated, they could stop taking every breath and prove that they truly do support GAIA and population reduction. Funny thing is, however, that it is “everyone else” that are supposed to sacrifice, not them.


  3. Mark Krebs  

    And a happy (non-denominational) holiday to all as I ready my vegan feast of climate friendly texturized soy protein.


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