Forget Black Friday.

While some will shop, the day after Thanksgiving also is the unofficial First Day of Holiday Decorating. In many households, this means the day you realize how many new strings of lights you need to buy because last year's lights are burned out, broken, or so tangled that they resemble particularly festive dreadlocks.

 

In any case, the solution is to buy more lights. Yet one problem remains: What to do with the strands that no longer illuminate?

The Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM) has a bright idea. Actually, they first had this idea two years ago when they launched Recycle Your Holidays, the first statewide holiday light recycling program in the country. This year's program starts on Nov. 15 and runs through the holiday season.

It's pretty cool, with cords, lights and plugs all being recycled by Green Lights Recycling, whose goal is to collect 200,000 strands this year. The recycling work is done at local vocational centers that offer "green job" training for individuals with disabilities.

The program also encourages people to replace bum lights with energy-efficient LED strands. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that running LED holiday lights on one 6-foot tree for 12 hours per day for 40 days can save 90% or more energy when compared to traditional incandescent holiday lights.

Here's how the program works: Drop off your broken lights at any partipating Ace Hardware stores. RAM expects more than 400 stores to take part this year. Here's a map of stores currently signed up: http://lightmap.mncerts.org.

RAM also offers free recycling of holiday lights, free recycling bins with signs and free pick up service to any organization, government office, business or school who wants to participate as a drop-off location. To sign up online, visit the RAM website at www.RecycleMinnesota.org. The program can also recycle any type of electrical cord such as telephone cords and damaged extension cords. 

Drop-off centers will remain active into January.