Green Giving

Energy efficient shopping, baking, and decorating holiday tips

Hosting a “green” holiday takes a little planning and effort, but the payoff can help your budget stay out of the red. So go ahead and deck the halls with energy savings by following these tips for energy-efficient shopping, baking, and decorating.

Green Shopping

Investing in a big gift? ENERGY STAR TVs and appliances save a bundle on power use. They feature a lower standby-mode consumption than an average device and generally use less energy in all functions.

Include a smart power strip as part of your gift. Most electronic devices consume energy, even when turned off.  In fact, such standby power consumption ranges from 5 percent to 10 percent of a household’s total energy consumption.

Smart power strips save energy by shutting off power to plugged-in gadgets when they go into standby mode. Many smart power strips also have one or two unmonitored, always-on outlets. Use these outlets to plug in devices that always need power, like a cordless phone base or alarm system.

Deck the House in Savings

Know a neighbor who gives the fictional Griswold family from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” a run for their money? Give them strings of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). A high-quality LED has a life expectancy of 50,000 hours or more. Consider recycling the retired strands at and get a 25 percent off coupon toward the purchase of LED holiday lights.

More isn’t always best. A small, thoughtful display stirs warm holiday feelings and you’ll be grateful when your January power bill doesn’t put a dent in your budget. Consider using timers for holiday lights, too. Set lights to turn on when it gets dark and off once viewers are snug in their beds.  Four to six hours should be plenty of time. And don’t forget using ribbons, wreaths, and garland—energy-free decorating traditions still deliver holiday cheer!

Green-Baked Goodies

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates cooking accounts for 4 percent of a home’s total energy use. Add energy costs for refrigeration, hot water heating, and dishwashing and you’ve got a hefty kitchen price tag. As holiday parties and potlucks gear up, keep efficient cooking tips in mind.

Cut baking temperatures by 25 degrees with a ceramic or glass pan. These pans retain heat better than metal. Use the oven wisely by cooking in large batches, and fit pans into all available oven space. Keep the door closed. Each time you peek into the oven you let out hot air, causing the oven to work overtime to bring the temperature back up.

Get to know how long it takes to preheat your oven and make sure you’re ready to start cooking right away. Insert a stainless steel skewer through meat or baked potatoes to speed the cooking process, or cut food into smaller pieces to shorten cooking time.

Have a convection option on your stove? It helps reduce cooking time and temperature. Turn your electric oven off ten minutes before the end of the cooking time; it maintains the temperature that long. And last but not least, if you’re planning some kitchen time, lower your thermostat. The heat generated in your kitchen can help heat the entire house, especially if you leave the oven door open after you are done.

The holidays are a joyful time, and there’s little that feels as good as giving someone you love the perfect gift. Make that gift a positive one and keep the holidays green for both you and your loved ones.

Sources: U.S. Department of Energy

Christina Sawyer writes on safety and energy efficiency issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

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