As the days get colder and thoughts turn to decorating for the holidays, consider recycling old traditional incandescent light strands instead of throwing them in the trash.

One option is to bring them to the Hilliard tree-lighting event from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at Hilliard's Station Park. The Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission will collect unwanted incandescent light strands for recycling.

The response was so positive at last year's event -- enough light strands were collected to fill the bed of a full-size pickup truck -- that the ESC decided to make it an annual collection effort.

Just stop by our table near the brightly lit tree to trade your unwanted light strands for a chance to win a restaurant gift card. Five gift cards will be awarded.

How should you replace those energy-wasting incandescent light strands? For those who might be more environmentally inclined or those who simply want to save some money, LED lights are the way to go.

LED lights use 80 to 90 percent less energy than the traditional incandescent strands. This is because in an incandescent light, only about 10 percent of the electricity used is converted to light' the remaining 90 percent is "wasted" as heat.

This improved efficiency leads to less power usage and lower utility bills, whether you put up one strand or hundreds.

Although prices for LED lights have declined with their increasing popularity, they remain more expensive than the old-fashioned incandescent ones.

However, in addition to saving on your electric bill, LED lights make up the higher cost by lasting longer. On average, a string of incandescent bulbs will provide 3,000 hours of light, whereas LED light strands provide enjoyment for anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 hours.

LED lights also are more durable and less prone to breakage. After buying LED lights, you might never need to purchase them again unless you decide to add to your displays.

LED lights also produce very little heat, so they might be a safer choice for the tree when it comes to fire prevention.

If you can't make it to Hilliard tree-lighting event, other recycling options can keep those holiday lights out of the landfill.

A number of retail stores run specials in which they will accept old lights and provide a coupon for purchase of new LED lights.

Goodwill stores also will accept old holiday lights for recycling.

This is a great way to make sure that your lights are disposed of in an environmentally responsible matter while providing work opportunities for individuals with disabilities. In Hilliard, you can drop off your lights at the Goodwill Retail Store and Donation Center at 3608 Main St. in Hilliard, at the donation center at 4529 Scioto Darby Road in Hilliard or the retail store and donation center at 5526 Renner Road in Columbus.

Greg Smith is a member of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission.