The One-Watt Christmas Tree

091227_tree3_250.jpgThis year we hadn’t planned to put up a Christmas tree, since we were going to my family’s for an extended holiday. But when colds took over multiple family members, Robyn and I postponed our trip.

Yet as Christmas Eve day dawned, we couldn’t imagine Christmas without even a little tree.

So we headed up and over the hill, found a shaded-out little three-foot fir among many fir youngsters. We invited her to join us, and held her straggly branches as we thanked her for joining us.

Now she’s sitting on our dining room table, aglow with a string of 35 LED lights and consuming 1 tiny watt of electricity. By comparison, the light strings with 32 tiny incandescent bulbs consumes 14 watts. That’s 15 times as much. (And the larger C6 strings take about 100 watts, 100 times as much.)

Until the LEDs replaced the tiny incandescents a year or so ago, we would turn on the Christmas tree lights for only an hour or two each night. (In our off-grid system, we try to charge the batteries as little as possible during the winter, thus saving on propane).

Now the LED light strings let us keep the Christmas tree alight for hours each day, making our hearts glad. They’re a potent symbol that our collective energy usage can be much reduced via efficiency. A next step is conservation — choosing to use less energy. Possibly a harder sell but with lots of potential (at least we think so, living pretty comfortably in a house using 10% of the electricity of the average American home).

Conservation and efficiency won’t get us all the way to sustainability because of the tremendous one-time energy bonanza in oil. But they’re a good start in this, the first phase of powerdown.

And we can still have our hearts glowing like the colorful lights on the little tree by the window. Surely it invites a curious glance from Bear and Deer passing by the humans’ nest in the dark, star-studded night.


  1. Incandescent light bulbs will soon be phased out because they waste a lot of energy.*~;

  2. Led lights are great because they are long lasting and consumes less electricity.’“

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