Creative Ways to Use RecyledIitems for Holiday Gift Wrapping

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle your way to a Green Christmas!

 You reduce, reuse and recycle all year long. Why should the holiday season be an exception to going green? In addition to helping to reduce your contribution to the landfill, you'll save money. There are many ways to be creative while being green, and for some of the projects, you can get the kids to help. From decorating to gift wrapping, there are countless ways to reduce your holiday carbon footprint. Your friends and family will love your creativity and you will feel good knowing you are helping to save the planet, even if it's just a tiny bit!

Here are some of the things you can make with recycled items to reduce, reuse and recycle your way to a green Christmas!

  • Gift wrap
  • Gift boxes and containers
  • Gift tags
  • Ribbon
  • Embellishments

Since the bulk of holiday waste can be attributed to the piles of gift wrap that get used then tossed into the trash, in this article we will concentrate on a number of ways you can wrap your gifts using recycled objects or materials not usually associated with gift wrap.

One easy way to make your own gift wrap is by using everyday objects such as grocery bags, shopping bags, sponges and potatoes! Combine paper with stamping to create fun, attractive and eco-friendly gift wrap. This is a project that the kids will love!

Supplies you will need:

  • Brown paper bags
  • Shopping bagsScissorsCredit: Photo credit: cohdra from
  • Newspaper
  • Potatoes
  • Sponges
  • Acrylic paint in holiday colors
  • Acrylic metallic paint
  • Glitter
  • White glue
  • Paring knife
  • Scissors
  • Paper for making stamp patterns
  • Old plate or recycled Styrofoam meat trays or other recycled plastic containers
  • Marker

Plain paper can be transformed into holiday wrap using holiday themed stamps that you make yourself out of potatoes or sponges. You can use brown paper bags from the  supermarket and/or department store paper shopping bags. First get the paper ready: Cut the bottom off the grocery bags, then cut down one long side to make one large sheet of Shopping Bag(122038)Credit: Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.combrown paper. If you are using shopping bags, carefully remove the twisted paper  handles (save for using as package decorations - directions below). Once you have your paper you are ready to embellish it using a variety of stamps.

Inexpensive stamps in holiday shapes can be purchased in craft stores, or better yet, you can make your own. Remember making potato stamps as a kid? Potato stamping is easy! Make simple shapes such as circles, stars, candy canes, holly leaves, bells or Paint JarsCredit: Photo credit: jppi from morguefile.comstockings. Cut a potato in half (no need to peel it!). Draw a simple design on paper, such as one suggested above. Cut the shape out and lay the pattern on the potato half. Using a sharp paring knife, carve the shape onto the potato. Make several different potato stamps, and make several of the same shape if you are using several different colors of paint. Using liquid acrylic paint, pour a little paint onto a plate. (Or use one of the Styrofoam meat dishes you have washed and saved. I like to use the plastic containers from Whole Foods Organic Chicken.) Dip the stamp into the paint then stamp the design onto the paper (stamp onto the "wrong" side of the bag, the side without printing). Cover the entire sheet of paper with stamps. For a professional look, plan out the placement of the stamps before stamping. Potato StampsCredit: example, if you are using stars and dots, first stamp all of the stars, carefully stamping in a pattern and covering the entire sheet. Then fill in with the dots. For a glitzy effect, sprinkle glitter onto the wet paint. Alternately, use white glue instead of paint and sprinkle glitter onto the wet glue stamp. You can combine paint stamps and glitter stamps on the same paper. 

In place of potato stamps you can make sponge stamps. Use inexpensive cello sponges. Wet the sponge and wring out as much water as possible. It is easier to cut a slightly damp sponge. Trace the shape onto the sponge with a marker. Cut the shape out with scissors. Follow the directions above for stamping onto paper.

After stamping, you can further embellish the gift wrap with markers. Add details to your stamped designs,  or trace them with the marker. If you have nice handwriting, you can add words to your design, such as Merry Christmas, Ho Ho Ho, or Happy Holidays.

Newspaper can also be used as gift wrap; however, newsprint does have the tendency to smudge so use with caution. You can stamp onto newsprint just as you would onto the brown paper bags. Use caution to not oversaturate the paper as it can easily rip or wrinkle as it dries.

Another popular, and elegant, way to wrap gifts and be green is to use scarves. This is a traditional Korean tradition called Bojagi. The Japanese call it Furoshiki. You can purchase a variety of beautiful scarves at thrift stores for less than the cost of paper wrap. Or for your young or male gift recipients, purchase bandannas at Army Navy stores. You can also use fabric that you buy by the yard. Use silky types of fabric, or metallic fabrics such as lame. The art of Bojagi and Furoshiki is basically wrapping and tying the scarves in a visually pleasing way.  There are several books that you can purchase on the subject. There are also websites that have step-by-step instructions and videos.

If you are pressed for time or don't want to do crafts, you still have several options to wrap gifts with recycled items. Old subway maps are large enough to wrap small to medium gifts. They are also great to wrap gifts any time of the year! To make them more festive, add glitter. Any glossy printed paper will make great gift wrap. Think old magazines, catalogs, brochures, posters, pages from vintage books --- these can all be recycled into gift wrap.

What about boxes or containers for your gifts? During the year save your oatmeal cannisters. They make great gift containers. Cigar boxes, mint tins, chocolate boxes; these can all be used with little or no additional wrapping. Just add a bow. Speaking of bows, these can also be recycled and reused, especially the ribbon and bows from the more expensive chocolates. I have a drawer full of beautiful ribbon that I have saved from boxes of chocolates.

Another useful way to tie up a gift is with yarn - you can unravel an old sweater or scarf and use the yarn instead of ribbon. Or use mens neckties. These can be purchased at thrift stores or garage sales for pennies. You can also embellish your gifts with decorations other than bows. Recycled silk flowers, pine cones, branches and twine, big buttons, and old Christmas cookie cutters. If you routinely shop at vintage and thrift stores, as well as estate and garage Red YarnCredit: Photo credit: jeltovski from morguefile.comsales, you will find endless items to use for embellishments for pennies. Remember the twisted paper handles you saved from your shopping bags while making the stamped gift wrap? These can be transformed into gift wrap embellishments. Using hot glue, twist the paper handles into two loops in the shape of a bow with two tails. Glue a small pine cone to the center. These look really nice with plain brown paper and twine instead of ribbon. Attach to the package with hot glue.

What about gift tags? These can be made from recycled Christmas cards. Using different templates (circles, squares, rectangles, ovals), cut out the shapes from the front of the Christmas cards. Punch a hole into the tag with a hole puncher. Use twine or recycles ribbon to attach the tag to the gift.

If you think about recycling every day, you will begin to see creative uses for everyday objects. Save them throughout the year and by the time the holidays roll around, you will be equipped with a bounty of recycled items for your recycled gift wrapping.

Have a Green Christmas!