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Holiday Recycling

This time of year there seems to be an abundance of waste everywhere we look. Wrapping paper, boxes, packing material and more filling up our homes…and our trash bins. Her are a few ways to take some of that junk and put it to good use.

Wrapping Paper

My mother’s family is German, and yes, they were frugal. My grandfather was a rocket scientist and he did everything with meticulous precision. This included unwrapping presents so carefully that the paper remained in pristine shape to be used again. I remember my eighth birthday was spent at my grandparents’ house in Colorado, and I had to run through a spanking line every time I ripped the paper on my present.  This may sound a little overboard, but actually it was a fun lesson on not being wasteful.  To this day I am careful to unwrap presents so that the paper may be used again.

Not into taking this much care with the present-opening process? You can do other things with that paper, like use it for packing material, or pet bedding.  It’s also recyclable in most areas.

Here’s an unusual tip…wrapping paper can be used to clean windows and glass and it leaves a streak-free shine. In case this is not obvious, this works best with the paper paper, not the plasticized or metallic stuff.

Holiday Cards

The nicer you are, the more cards you get. After the holidays are over you may find yourself with stacks of the things. They can be put in the recycle bin, but there are also some creative ideas for reusing them.

Cut them into smaller squares to be used as gift tags next year.

Use the front of the cards to make paper collages that can be laminated and used as holiday place mats.

Cut out the pictures on the cards to be used in crafts. Kids can use them in art projects for school or at home. Long strips can be used as book marks.


Foil is pretty common as a holiday waste. Candy is wrapped in it and it often lines specialty food boxes.  But foil can be used in lots of craft projects. It’s colorful and shiny.


Another material that there’s an abundance of at the holidays. If it’s not ripped, tissue is easily flattened out and used again.  Smaller pieces are useful in crafting. 

Here’s a neat idea for the kids.  Cut up colored tissue paper into small pieces. Take a glass jar or vase and glue the smaller pieces to it.  Paint over the finished product with a clear sealant or resin. The finished product looks like stained glass and makes a very pretty pencil holder or refurbished vase for your flowers.

Holiday Lights

Holiday lights can be recycled at a variety of retailers and recycling facilities. See our post on holiday light recycling.

There are also many options for crafting with these colorful gems, including jewelry, center pieces and lamps.

What do I do with the tree?

Most municipal waste programs will collect your tree during a limited time frame after the holidays are over. Hopefully you live in an area that actually composts the trees, or chips them up into mulch, rather than depositing them in the landfill.

You can, however, extend the life of your holiday tree by moving it outdoors and converting it into a bird feeder.  Trees are perfect for hanging suet bags or pine cones packed with peanut butter…and the birds will thank you.

The needles from the tree can be harvested and used as potpurri, or made into sachet bags for your linen drawers.

Believe it or not there are even some recipes that will allow you to use evergreen needles in cooking!

Other ideas?

Feel free to post your comments here!


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