Columbia’s Tree Lighting Goes Green

Switch to LED bulbs saves energy, lowers cost of annual winter lights on College Walk.

Credit: Michael Edmonson CC'20 for Columbia College Alumni Association

When students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered on College Walk this evening for the annual Columbia Tree Lighting Ceremony, they had something new to celebrate: lighting the trees this winter will require significantly less energy. That is because, for the first time, the approximately 36,000 bulbs adorning the trees across College Walk are LED lights, replacing all standard bulbs used in past years.

As revellers sipped their free hot chocolate and listened to a cappella performances, the upgraded bulbs were saving energy — about 10 Watts per 100 bulbs compared to over 40 Watts per 100 of the standard bulbs. Over the course of 90 days (the lights are taken down at the end of February each year) the switch to LEDs will have saved a total of 127,900 Kilowatt-hours (KWh) compared to standard bulbs.

Not only do LED holiday lights consume less electricity, they are also safer; LEDs are much cooler than incandescent lights, reducing the risk of combustion or burnt fingers.

The decision to switch to LEDs is in line with Columbia’s Sustainability Plan, which highlights energy reduction as one of the University’s main goals. The plan codifies energy conservation as a central strategy, aiming to achieve a 35 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2020.

Hosted by the the four undergraduate student councils — Columbia College Student Council (CCSC), Engineering Student Council (ESC), General Studies Student Council (GSSC) and Student Government Association at Barnard College (SGA) — the Tree Lighting event dates back to 1998. The cherished holiday tradition brings everyone together at the center of campus as the trees between Kent and Hamilton on the east side of College Walk, and Dodge and Journalism Halls on the west, illuminate all at once.