Tuesday, December 14, 2010

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree....

Tonight I watched the Maryland Public Television's rendition of the lighting of the National Christmas Tree from last week's December 9th, 2010. 

Being an hour away from DC, there have several years I've gotten a chance to meander down to DC's ellipse (just beyond the White House Lawn) to see the National Tree and all the individual state/territory trees.  It's an amazing sight, a massive tree.

The current blue spruce is a live tree, and has been there since 1978 & the Carter era.  At 42 feet tall, decorated...it most certainly is a sight to behold. The tradition of lighting DC's national tree has been around since 1923 & Calvin Coolidge. In 2009, the lighting of the tree went  a "green," using LED (light-emitting diode) lights.  What does this mean?  According to http://environment.about.com/od/greenlivingdesign/a/LED_light_bulbs.htm:
"LEDs Offer More Efficient Technology than Incandescent Lights and CFLs:
According to HowStuffWorks.com, LED bulbs are lit solely by the movement of electrons. Unlike incandescents, they have no filament that will burn out; and unlike CFLs, they contain no mercury or other toxic substances. Proponents say LEDs can last some 60 times longer than incandescents and 10 times longer than CFLs. And unlike incandescents, which generate a lot of waste heat, LEDs don’t get especially hot and use a much higher percentage of electricity for directly generating light."
And as for 2010 in the historic world of the National Christmas Tree...the timeline grows.  This year marks another notable eco-event.  Not only do the LED lights continue to illuminate the tree (and heck, these might even be the same type of lights on your tree at home!), but  it
"is the first year that custom ornaments are not being used on the National Christmas Tree. Today’s LED ornaments are not only energy efficient and long lasting; they’re also very beautiful--even during the day when they are not lit. They can enhance any holiday lighting design,” said Mary Beth Gotti, Manager of the GE Lighting Institute in Cleveland, Ohio. (quoted from http://www.thenationaltree.org/tree-lighting/making-tree-green/
Of the 750 strings of lights, the 430 colorful sphere decorations and the 84 snowflakes (all LED), each ornament only uses about 2 watts of light, making the total tree power consumption about 7000 watts.  According to the National Tree website (see link above), incandescent lights of Christmases of yesteryear (or make that 2 yrs ago!) took the total wattage to well over 50,000 watts. That's a big difference!  LED is clearly the light at the end of the tunnel, illuminating the way to go!

So the timeline is marked....the history is noted...and the tree is green (in more ways than one).  Gives new meaning to the song...
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us.
They are green when summer days are bright;
They are green when winter snow is white.
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

Image from http://www.upi.com/News_Photos/view/d760246b460978a452b177958a80a2e9/The-National-Christmas-Tree-Lighting-in-Wasghinton/

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