Zoo’s ‘light-bulb moment’: Use LEDs to go green with holiday light displays

December 1, 2011 - 8:00am
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Visitors who follow zoo’s eco example can get free fudge, be entered to win behind-the-scenes tour

If you’ve been thinking of switching out your old holiday lights for some energy-saving LEDs, the Oregon Zoo has a sweet offer for you: free fudge.

Throughout the run of its winter ZooLights festival, the zoo will be collecting old holiday light strings for recycling. Visitors who drop off their lights at the zoo by Sunday, Jan. 1, will receive a coupon for a free piece of fudge courtesy of the ZooStore. Visitors should note that the zoo is not asking for donations of lights to use at ZooLights – all collected lights will be recycled into their component parts.

“LED string lights use a fraction of the power consumed by traditional string lights, but they’re just as beautiful,” said Chris Massey, zoo facility operations manager. “Anyone who wants to decorate for the holidays can save on electric costs and protect the environment by switching to LEDs. It’s a win-win situation.”

ZooLights visitors who want to take additional steps to conserve natural resources are in luck: ZooTeen volunteers are running educational “EcoBooths” at the zoo’s Family Farm on Saturday and Sunday nights. Kids and adults can participate in fun activities about saving water, conserving energy, and “greening” the holidays. All participants will be entered to win a behind-the-scenes tour at the zoo’s Polar Bears exhibit.

ZooLights, presented by Fred Meyer with support from The Boeing Company, is both brighter and greener this year. The zoo has been using LEDs (light-emitting diodes) for its ZooLights displays since 2000, and continues to add more each year, replacing its conventional bulbs. This year, the zoo added around 100,000 more LEDs, making for a total of 900,000 LEDs out of the 1,350,000 lights. LEDs use only about 1 percent of the power of standard holiday lights, and about 10 percent of the power in mini-lights.

“During the ZooLights season, the zoo now consumes 80 percent less power than it did before we started switching to LEDs,” Massey said. “That’s an incredible difference.”

According to Massey, few visitors notice the change – LEDs give off a slightly different glow than standard holiday lights, but are just as festive. Additionally, LEDs do not fade and lose their color over time. Since the diodes themselves create the colors, rather than painted bulbs, old LED strings remain as bright and colorful as the day they were purchased.