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8 easy ways to cut holiday waste

During the holiday season, we throw away more material than any other time of year. Five-million tons of additional waste goes to the landfill in the United States, including four-million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags that mostly cannot be recycled.

Here are some easy ideas for reducing your holiday trash.

1. Wrap it up

Most wrapping paper and bows are not recycable. Look for recycled-content wrapping paper to wrap your gifts. Or, choose paper that’s recyclable such as brown kraft paper that is sold in stores or reuse paper grocery bags. It can be decorated with stamps, color and festive bows. Or, get creative with old maps, posters or leftover wallpaper. For kitchen gifts, wrap it up in a dishtowel, tablecloth or napkin. Oftentimes, bows and ribbons can also be reused from year to year. If every family in the U.S. reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.

2. Party with zero waste

Holiday parties don’t have to leave you with lots of trash. Start with invitations printed on recycled paper – or send an email invite. Use real plates, glasses, linens and utensils, instead of disposable items. If you don’t own enough, borrow some or check a thrift store. If you decide to use paper napkins, choose some with recycled content.

The day of the party set up convenient recycling containers for bottles and cans. Set out baskets to collect ribbons and bows that can be reused. Then offer them to guests as they leave.

3. Reuse paper for holiday cards

The 2.65-billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. When sending holiday cards, look for products with post-consumer recycled paper content. Also, give them a second life and donate old cards to St. Jude’s Ranch, that repurposes the card artwork and sells greeting cards to support its mission in providing for neglected children and families. Also, consider making your own cards or send electronic cards and invitations.

4. Chip it down

If you buy a cut tree, be sure to recycle it. Recycled trees are either chipped for mulch or placed in area lakes to create natural fish habitats. Check for a complete list of tree drop-off locations.

5. Stop junk mail

If you’re tired of receiving holiday mail order catalogs, remove your name from mailing lists by contacting the Direct Marketing Association or calling them at 212-768-7277. Check out retail catalogs online, or better yet, shop locally.

6. String a strand of LEDs

Replace old holiday lights with LED (light emitting diode) strands. LED lights use 80 to 90 percent less electric energy than conventional incandescent bulbs. LEDs last for years, making your life easier and reducing electronic waste in the process. Also, check out Southeast Enterprises Holiday Lights Recycling Drive to recycle old lights.

7. Reuse your decor

Decorate your home with holiday cards from friends or use old cards. For fireplace mantles, tables and trees use natural or edible items from your yard – like evergreens sprigs, holly and dried flower heads — that can then be composted after the holidays. Take stock of the decorations you already have and use them, trade with a friend or donate them to a good cause. Just don’t toss them into the landfill.

8. Remember to recycle

For all the holiday stuff that can’t be put in your recycling bin, find the perfect place to recycle it at

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