It’s that time of year again. Snow blankets the mountain west region and the holiday season is upon us. We love watching Clark in “Christmas Vacation,” but the Griswold family antics brought up a serious question in the Love Schack offices.
Can we decorate our high-performance, sustainable homes like Clark W. Griswold Jr. in “Christmas Vacation” and still respect our environment?
We choose to live in Montana and Idaho because we love our surrounding nature and wildlife. We also love holiday decorations and festivities. Obviously, our question is somewhat tongue and cheek, but the discussion that followed led us to develop a few guidelines for decorating with holiday lights.
Consider the Impact
Flora and fauna depend on natural rhythms of day and night for sleeping, hunting, eating, navigating and growing. So do our fellow humans. Does your holiday light display disrupt natural rhythms?
Light from LEDs, especially cooler white and blue colors, travels farther and risks affecting natural habitats. Consider warmer color temperatures and even incandescent bulbs (we’ll contradict this later in this article).
Hide it from the Sky
If you live near the city, you’re probably familiar with light pollution. It’s the reason you can’t see many stars and especially the Milky Way. There are ways you can light it up for the holidays while minimizing your contribution to this type of pollution.
Place strong lights on the underside of the soffit. The concept is to keep the light from your decorations reflecting down (away from the sky). Bonus: Once you install clips, you can leave them in place for easier decoration next year!
Decorate inside. Candles or other indoor lights displayed in your windows can be beautiful and have less impact on the night sky. Bonus: It’s a lot warmer decorating inside than it is outside!
Evergreen before Deciduous. Your evergreen trees provide all kinds of shelter. Stringing strands of warm-temperature lights around them is a dark-skies friendly alternative to lighting up your naked deciduous varieties. Bonus: Those thick, green boughs provide an easier decorating platform than bare deciduous branches!
Avoid the need for Auxiliary Nuclear Backup
You may love your computerized, synced-to-music, broadcast over the radio extravaganza, but we’ll bet your neighbors don’t. It’s also a big drain on our power resources. How can we be better stewards of our resources while still celebrating with light?
Timers. Is anyone really looking at your house and decorations at 3 AM? Do you want them to be? Use a timer that comes on at dusk and goes off at bedtime.
LEDs. We told you we’d contradict our incandescent comment above! LEDs use less power and last longer. Just look for warm color temperatures and avoid the cool whites and blues.
Less is more. Less can truly be more. Consider highlighting strong architectural features of your home or prominent natural features rather than blanketing your entire property in light.
Sorry Clark, your 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights may have been ‘a beaut,’ but they’re hurting everyone around you. The lives of your plant and animal neighbors, even Todd and Margo are being disrupted by your nuclear power draining display.
All of us at Love Schack Architecture hope you and yours have a wonderful Holiday Season. We hope you’ll celebrate with friends, family and neighbors alike. Just remember why you’re celebrating and when you’re decorating, what you’re trying to achieve.
If you want to bring cheer to your neighbors, remember that we all (plants, animals, and humans) all live more comfortably and fruitfully under a dark night sky.
To learn more about light pollution, visit International Dark Sky Association: http://www.darksky.org/