By Mary Harrington

The holiday shopping season is a good time to remember the four R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle, and re-purchase.

The first R – Reduce – is a reminder to observe your purchasing habits so you avoid buying products with too much packaging that must be recycled or non-recyclable packaging that must be disposed. The idea is to have the smallest amount of material that must be recycled or disposed when the parties are over.

When it comes to gifts, consider giving experiences instead of things. If you do give a gift, use gift bags or recyclable gift wrapping (not the non-recyclable foil paper!) that can be re-used or recycled. There are many other ways to reduce packaging: buy products in bulk so you end up with one big container instead of many small containers.  Also consider making your own snacks instead of buying prepackaged snacks, wrapping sandwiches in festive reusable wrappers and packing lunches and left-overs in reusable containers.

Reuse is another important practice to implement. Look over your possessions to see if there are things in good condition that you no longer need or use that someone else might need or use. Donate those things to Good Will, Better World Books, the Salvation Army or other re-use organizations (always check to make sure you know which items they will take) instead of putting them at the curb for disposal. Your donations might make someone else’s holiday brighter.

Recycling is a great habit to have, but buying recycled (Re-purchasing) is a necessary component of sustainable recycling programs. When buying, look for the “Made Using Post Consumer Recyled Material” message. “Post consumer” means the product was made from material collected from recycling programs. When you buy things with this message you are supporting recycling collection programs and supporting a more sustainable lifestyle.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.