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Dreaming of a greener Christmas?

Local experts offer suggestions to lighten the environmental impact

December 16, 2012
By JOE SUTTER, , Messenger News

A white Christmas may be traditional, or even a blue Christmas, but here in Fort Dodge it's easy to take steps in recycling, reusing and conserving to make the holiday green.

For example, the mountains of leftover packaging from Christmas morning don't have to go into the landfill.

"We can take all that, the wrapping paper, the boxes," said Deb Watson, of the Fort Dodge Recycling Center.

Styrofoam can't be recycled; avoid things with Styrofoam packing if a green Christmas is the goal.

Watson said paper and boxes start coming in a few weeks before Dec. 25.

"It's obvious that people are starting their Christmas already, and they are doing a good job of recycling," she said.

People who get new electronics can bring their old electronics to the recycling center to avoid putting those electrical components into the landfill. It's free to drop off all kinds of electronics except old TVs and monitors with a CRT tube, which have a $15 disposal fee. The recycling center is located at 2150 S. 22nd St.

Getting a newer, smarter phone in your stocking? There's no need to recycle the old one if it still works. The Domestic and Sexual Assault Outreach Center can reuse old phones.

"As far as I know, as long as they have chargers, we can use them," said Pat McAvoy, manager of D/SAOC's store the Key on Central. Phones can be brought to the Key, 1030 Central Ave.

Seasonal decorations can be made more efficient by using LED lights instead of the traditional incandescent light strings.

"It's safer, it's more efficient and the lights last longer," said Jim Sayers, energy services director at Corn Belt Power Co-op in Humboldt.

"We promote it because of energy savings, which are quite substantial. We say they use about 10 to 20 percent of the amount of energy for the light compared to how incandescents may have done in the past," said Sayers. "That's good, especially if you've got a whole bunch of them."

If you have an eight-foot tree lit five hours a day for 30 days, old-fashioned incandescents would cost about $10 in electricity, he said. With LEDs, the electricity cost would be more like 50 cents to $1. The more lights you use, the bigger difference it makes.

Plus, while still more expensive than traditional lights, LEDs are much more affordable now that in the past.

LEDs are safer because they typically stay cool, Sayers said, so they're much less likely to cause a fire. They also last much longer.

"If you're like me, in the old days you'd buy those twinkle lights, and one year they don't work so you just throw them all away. It's easier than trying to figure out what's wrong," he said. "But the LEDs, they last a long time and you don't have to do that as much."

Sayers recommended buying LEDs with an Energy Star certification.

"That means they have been rated for how much power they use, how long they last, failure rates," he said.

When the holiday season is over, old Christmas trees and wreaths will be turned into useful mulch in Fort Dodge's Operation Merry Mulch.

"Some will be chipped up, and some are hauled away to put in ponds for fish habitat," said Kevin Lunn, Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation and Forestry superintendent.

Trees and wreaths can be dropped off between Dec. 26 and Jan. 25 at the parking lot by the cabin in Oleson Park. Stands, wire, nails and ornaments must be removed from the trees.

Instead of taking up space in a landfill or being dumped in ditches, the trees will provide free mulch for anyone who wants it.

"We have some people who come out every year with a pickup truck, take home a load of wood chips to use at their house," Lunn said.

The chips are also used around trees in Fort Dodge parks and golf courses.

The mulch is available from the Parks and Rec shop from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays at the south end of Oleson Park.

The program is now in its 22nd year and started in response to an Iowa law prohibiting throwing trees into landfills. Since it began, the program has taken just under 10,000 trees, Lunn said.



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