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Originally published Monday, June 28, 2010 at 7:00 PM

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With packaging, less is more

Packaging makes up almost a third of the waste we all generate

McClatchy Newspapers

You probably don't go to the grocery store saying, "I think I'll buy some trash today." But depending on which products you choose, that's exactly what you're doing.

Packaging makes up almost a third of the waste we all generate. And, all that excessive packaging ends up in our landfills where it takes an extremely long time to decompose — if at all.

Start making a difference today by making smarter choices when you shop. When choosing between two similar products select the one with the least amount of packaging and in a container that can actually be recycled or reused.

One of the best ways to reduce the amount of packaging trash is to avoid individually wrapped items like snack packs and single serve containers. Instead, buy in bulk and divide your bounty into individual washable containers that you can reuse again and again. Lots of items are available in bulk such as crackers, nuts, and even cereal. The same goes for water; opt for reusable bottles instead of single use bottled water. If your tap water leaves a lot to be desired, a jug or pitcher water filter system can replace thousands of individual plastic bottles and the caps.

And when shopping for produce, choose loose fruits and veggies instead of prepackaged ones. This move will usually save you money too because prepackaged ones are normally more expensive. Remember to also save and reuse those plastic produce bags from a previous grocery store trip and your purchase will have zero waste.

It's also smart to look for items such as dish soap and laundry detergents in concentrated formulas. This simply means you are the one adding the water instead of the manufacturer. The container size will often be smaller meaning they require less energy to produce and transport. You can also buy soap and detergent in economy sizes with refillable dispensers to reduce packaging waste.

Whenever possible, choose items that come in recycled or recyclable packaging. Buy milk in a recyclable plastic jug instead of a wax-coated carton that is not always recyclable.

Buy tuna in a can instead of a foil pouch that is not recyclable, and buy juice in recyclable plastic jugs, or better still jugs of concentrated juice, instead of individual juice boxes which are not usually recyclable. Aluminum and glass packaging are usually best because they can be recycled over and over again without a loss of quality.

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