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Editorial: Throw away less during holiday season

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Each year, Americans generate millions of tons of waste in our homes and communities. The Environmental Protection Agency is challenging people to conserve our natural resources by committing to reduce, reuse, and recycle at home, in your community, and at the office.

From Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, household waste increases.

The EPA offers the following tips to reduce and recycle waste during the holiday season:

n Thousands of paper and plastic shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable cloth bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don't need a bag for small or oversized purchases.

n Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper. Give gifts that don't require much packaging, such as concert tickets or gift certificates.

n Send recycled-content greeting cards to reduce the amount of virgin paper used during the holidays. Remember to recycle any paper cards you receive. You can also try sending electronic greeting cards to reduce paper waste.

n About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Buy rechargeable batteries to accompany your electronic gifts, and consider giving a battery charger as well. Rechargeable batteries reduce the amount of potentially harmful materials thrown away, and can save money in the long run.

n Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.

n Approximately 33 million live Christmas trees are sold in North America every year. After the holidays, look for ways to recycle your tree instead of sending it to a landfill. Check with your community solid waste department and find out if they collect and mulch trees. Your town might be able to use chippings from mulched trees for hiking trails and beachfront erosion barriers.

n To help prevent waste from cutting down and disposing of live trees, you can buy a potted tree and plant it after the holidays.

n Have a create-your-own-decorations party! Invite family and friends to create and use holiday decorations such as ornaments made from old greeting cards or cookie dough, garlands made from strung popcorn or cranberries, wreaths made from artificial greens and flowers, and potpourri made from kitchen spices such as cinnamon and cloves.

n Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money.

n When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item's recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.

n Use your own camera instead of a disposable one to reduce waste while capturing holiday memories. Consider buying a digital camera so that you don't have to use film and only print the pictures you want to keep.

PARK RAPIDS ENTERPRISE

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