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illuminationDecember, dark mornings, early evenings, winter weather, holidays It is the season of illumination! Whether an evening at home or inviting family and friends to a festive party illumination brings atmosphere, comfort, and essential lighting. Illumination via electrical sources also brings increased cost to your pocket and the environment. Can you still light your home festively and be kinder to your pocket and your planet? Absolutely! A few tricks and changes and you're on your way.

Deck your halls, trees, and shrubs with Light Emitting Diode fairy lights or other LED seasonal string lights and place them on switches at power points that can be turned off when not in use.

Why make the switch to LED? Contemporary LED lights are warmer in lumenescence than their predecessors and come in a wide array of holiday colors, shapes, and sizes. LEDs operate by electron movement in a semiconductor material and should a bulb stop working it does not impact the remainder of the string. In comparison, incandescent bulbs use a filament that can burn out and in turn shuts off the remainder of the string of lights. LEDs consume about 1/10th the energy of traditional incadescent lights resulting in lower electrical costs. LED bulbs are plastic, more durable,and are cool to the touch as a result of less heat production. Less heat from the bulbs means less risk of fire to your tree and home. The lifespan of an LED light string is 40-50 times longer than incandescent strings and they are mercury free. Mini LED's produce a brighter light than large LEDs or incandescents creating more sparkle and twinkle for your ambiance. Admitedly the initial cost of a string of LEDs is more expensive than incandescent, but the energy savings, the longevity, and the limited impact upon the environment makes them a winning choice. For more information on LED lighting go to or to

Grace your tables, entry way, or drive with candles or solar lights. Although, candle lumens are lower than electrical lighting with a bit of smoke and mirrors you can transform a single point of light into many. Use cut glass bowls or dishes and cut glass candles holders to refract light for sparkle and to expand the number of points of light. Mirrors under or behind candles add reflective light. Visit second-hand markets or shops for inexpensive silver trays, or dishes to place your candles on, again to create a relective, sparkling effect that increases your candle's lumenescence, creates beauty, and brings comfort. Or combine cut glass with a reflective surface and multiple your lighting power many times over. (Remember to use an environmentally safe method for polishing your silver. See:, or To find second hand cut glass or silver in Brussels visit aantiques and second-hand shops around, on Rue Haute, Rue Blase and Sablon Square or the flea market in the Marolle district Place du Jeu de Balle. In other areas of Belgium use can visit TROC shops for your finds, see their website for locations:

Candles add a soft glow that warms a room, bring calm and peace during the busy and hectic season. They evoke symbolism and stir emotions. Candles come in a wide variety of wax types including paraffin, beeswax, soya, palm, bayberry and beeswax sheets, not all of which can be found in Belgium. Try to choose beeswax or vegetal-based candles (like soya) and reduce or eliminate your use of paraffin (a petro chemical by-product) wax candles or gel candles. Non-renewable sourced, paraffin-based and gel-based candles (gel is derived from processed petrochemical mineral oils gelled with plastic polymers, poured into glass containers) burn hotter then vegetal-based (soya) or beeswax candles which have a lower melting point and burn slower, longer, and nearly soot free. There is less potential for serious burns should hot wax be touched and less toxin by-products released. Burning paraffin-based candles is also noted as being as dangerous to your lungs as sitting in second hand smoke. Beeswax candles, which are usually drip-free, provide a pleasant fragrance that is toxin-free versus those scented with artificial fragrance oils which may contribute to asthma and allergy symptoms in those people who are sensetive to these conditions. If you are looking for fragrance, warm essential oils in a specially made dish in a stand over a tealight. Beeswax candles can be found in specialty shops and whole food shops in Belgium. Finding soya-based candles in Belgian shops requires an eagle eye and are more easily purchased in the Netherlands, Germany, or online (

Remember to always use caution with candles and never leave a room with burning candles left unattended. For safety tips please refer to:

Solar lights, after your initial investment are the most cost effective lighting. Lights can not only be used during the holidays but year round, amatorizing your costs over a greater period of time. Solar powered holiday decorations can be found online or in shops like Nature et Decouvertes (Woluwe Shopping Centre and City2).

Sunbeams wishes you health and happiness this December as you take a positive focus on small steps towards big changes for illuminating your holiday environment!

This article was originally published in the December 2009 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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