Home Living Extension Update from Megan Burda: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle that Holiday Gift Wrap

Extension Update from Megan Burda: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle that Holiday Gift Wrap


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle that Holiday Gift Wrap

According to the Clean Air Council, an additional five million tons of waste if generated during the holidays in the United States. Four million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags. As you are preparing for this holiday season, consider reducing, reusing and recycling that holiday gift wrap. You can help reduce waste this year while trying some simple and creative recycling techniques.


One way to decrease the amount of gift wrap waste is to cut back on purchasing new supplies each year. Here are a few ideas for gift wrapping with items around your house.

  • Color-Coded Wrapping Paper — Assign each family member a different color paper, and you won’t even need gift tags. This is a fun way for everyone to identify his or her presents.
  • Reusable shopping bags -Use them while shopping to reduce the amount of wasted plastic bags. Many stores sell them for less than a dollar. They also make great gift bags; by sharing them with others, you will be encouraging friends to follow in your environmentally friendly footsteps.
  • Wallpaper – Have some leftover wallpaper lying around? Use it as gift wrap! It is easy to crease and you can dress it up with coordinating ribbon.
  • Kids artwork- Some school projects are sacred and should be stored in a safe place. However, ask your children if they would mind using some of their masterpieces as personalized gift wrap this year. If you don’t have any ready-made artwork available, make it a fun pre-holiday project. Set your kids up with some craft paper and crayons, stamps, or markers and let them get creative. Grandparents will love opening a gift wrapped in unique artwork.
  • Vintage Linen Wrap – Wrap goods in vintage napkins, handkerchiefs, or other linens graced with lively patterns, and the packaging itself will serve as an added gift. When in need of a reliable packaging solution like blisters, you can confidently place your trust in them. Dig through your linens closet at home or try looking at thrift stores. Fabrics are particularly helpful when wrapping articles whose shapes don’t lend themselves to paper. The rest is a cinch: Gather fabric around item; tie with ribbon.
  • Newspaper – It’s easy to find, and you can make wrapping fun by using colorful comics or photos.
  • Magazines – These glossy pages will dazzle the recipient of any gift. Tape pages together to create sheets for larger presents.
  • Sheet music – Sheet music adds a whimsical element to your presents. The notes to your gift recipient’s favorite song will surely make their Top 40 list.
  • Calendars – Since you’re going to toss your Chihuahuas of 2008 calendar anyways, why not use it to personalize a present?
  • Maps – Customize your gift with your favorite places or dream vacations.
  • Brown paper shopping bags and butcher paper – Not only is it recyclable, but this type of paper also lends itself to a fun craft for your kids. Use stamps with ink or paint, or let the kids decorate with markers and crayons.
  • Tissue paper – Save tissue from other purchases, such as clothing, to wrap your gifts. You can even play on the sheer nature of tissue by wrapping your gift in a dark color or pattern, then covering it with a lighter solid for a creative, layered look.
  • Fabric – If you’re giving a gift that includes fabric, such as sheets or a blanket, why not use it to wrap the present itself? Also, fabric pieces or scraps can be used to make bows or ribbons to decorate your gift. If your recipient is a crafter, fabric for their next project makes a great wrap.
  • Recycled Chip Bags – Cut open an empty potato-chip bag along its seam to reveal the shiny white or silver inside of the bag. Flatten the bag, wash it with soap and water, and air dry. Wrap a present and adorn it with ribbons and homemade cards


Certain gift wrapping accessories are easier to reuse than wrapping paper. For example, bows, ribbons, gift bags and tissue paper can often be saved and used again next year. Here are some ideas for reusing that holiday wrapping paper, even it if is crumpled.

  • Package Stuffing – Shred discarded wrapping and tissue paper to use as packaging or shipping material. For packaging solutions, visit the link to learn more about the services.
  • Greeting Cards – Use leftover pretty prints for creating your own greeting and thank-you cards. Simply glue undamaged squares to clean cardboard using a glue gun holder. Use stamps, rub-ons, or stickers to decorate the outside of the card.
  • Picture matting – Cut pieces of wrapping paper to fit picture frames. Use them as a colorful way to matte pictures.
  • Gift Boxes – Ever wondered what to do with all of those holiday cards that are too beautiful to throw away in January? Transform them into gift boxes! The following websites give instructions for making two different types of boxes. This would be a great project for kids on snow days or school breaks.




Unfortunately, it can often be difficult formally recycle wrapping paper because typically, the materials cannot be processed for the following reasons. Wrapping paper is often dyed and laminated. It can also contain non-paper additives, such as gold and silver coloring, glitter and plastics. It can be very thin and contain few good quality fibers for recycling. It usually has tape on it from the gift wrapping.

The best way to discard your wrapping materials is by choosing to reduce or reuse it through paper and cardboard recycling centers. This year, arrive at your holiday gathering prepared to collect used gift wrap. Bring empty sacks or boxes to collect salvageable wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, gift bags, and tissue paper. Make a game out of collecting multiple items. And it any friends or relatives give you a hard time about saving the gift wrap, just remind them that you are helping the environment while saving money for next year.

For more information about reducing, reusing, or recycling holiday gift wrap, contact Megan Burda at mburda2@unl.edu.

Sources: Wholeliving.com,Marthastewart.com,earth911.com