NYC Makes Christmas ‘Greener’ Than Ever Before

December 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Travel to New York this winter? In the ‘City that never sleeps’ it’s no surprise that there are quite a large number of lights, which not-so-shockingly use up their fair share of energy. And of course, at Christmas time, during the holiday season, one would expect this energy usage to skyrocket. With all of the big decorations – the tree in Rockefeller Center, plus some new things – there has to be a huge impact on the environment, right? Well, there’s where you’d be surprised. Many of these decorations are actually quite environmentally friendly, at least as much as they possibly can be.

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The Lights

Updated this year are the giant christmas lights outside the McGraw Hill building on 6th Avenue. Not only are they modeled on the new, more sustainable bulbs being sold nationwide, they are more sustainable themselves. They’re now energy-efficient, and LEED certified too. They’re quite a sight to see, and it’s nice to see that the environment is at least being considered.

The Empire State Building

One of the most iconic figures in NYC, not just around Christmastime, is the Empire State Building. What’s also quite well-known are the lights atop the building, added in the mid 1960’s to better illuminate the top of the strikingly tall building. Since then, these lights have lit up for various holidays and special occasions, and perhaps none more well publicized than the colors during the holiday season. Though it takes quite a bit of energy to light this monstrosity, rest assured knowing that these lights are powered entirely by green, sustainable energy sources, as is the rest of the building.

The Tree

Without a doubt, the single most iconic aspect of New York at Christmastime is the Tree in Rockefeller Center. I don’t think I need to tell you all much about the tree itself, but I think what is important are the measures being taken to ensure that it has a very small environmental impact. The tree was cut with a handsaw, and the lumber will be donated to Habitat for Humanity . The lights that decorate it are energy-efficient LEDs, and the leaves and branches will become mulch for city parks.

Some Dissension

Some people are concerned, as always, about ‘green-washing’ as opposed to true sustainability. There has been a discussion of this especially concerning the Tree at Rockefeller Center. As Harris Silver recently discussed in an article on Huffington Post, there is a distinction between the minor steps taken by the proprietors of the Tree and a truly sustainable Christmas tradition. He points out that there is much more damage done to the environment by the helicopters and trucks used to find and transport this tree, not to mention the energy used by the visitors who come to see it. He does believe that they are at least aware of this fact, judging by the attempts to make it greener, but suggests a more sustainable alternative, i.e. planting a tree in Rockefeller Center to be decorated every year, rather than cutting a new one down each time.

While I can understand his concerns, and agree with them, I also must stand by my belief that there is no such thing as too small an act of sustainability. I must still commend all of those out there who have sought to make the holiday season greener, though I do encourage them to take heed of the warnings of Silver and others. They shouldn’t stop now and assume that they’ve done their best to make their decorations sustainable, but they should keep working to make the celebrations greener and greener each year.

I hope everyone’s holidays were fun and festive, and Happy New Year to all!

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