One of the byproducts of the holiday season is lots of waste paper and cardboard in the form of wrapping paper, gift boxes, greeting cards, and the like, most of which ultimately gets bagged up and tossed out with the trash. It is a shame to simply throw away such a great volume of even apparently useless material, however, and there are better ways to dispose of or even make use of such festive detritus — some of which can save you money or keep children occupied, both laudable goals.
* Reuse it. If they are in good shape and you have an upper shelf closet or some other place that you can readily store them, gift bags, tissue paper, clothing boxes from department stores, and even large sheets of carefully-removed gift wrap can all effectively be used again. Not only can this save you some money when the next holiday comes around, it can also be very convenient to have materials like this readily on hand when you need them. Reusing wrapping paper, of course, is predicated on the idea that people, notably children, will not shred it when opening their gifts, but wanton destruction does not necessarily have to be part of the fun of Christmas.
* Recycle it! If you recycling is available where you live, at the very least you should make a point of gathering up all the gift paper, boxes, and cards you are not planning on keeping and getting rid of it this way rather than by putting it in the trash. As an aside, if you think recycling is not available in your community, check the local county or municipal website; a county recycling truck comes once a week to a parking lot near where I live at Canyon Lake, for example, but many of my neighbors are completely unaware of this when I tell them about it.
* Repurpose it. If you are able to, repurposing paper and cards is even more efficient than recycling them and there are numerous ways to do this.
Giftwrap, tissue paper from gift bags, and other flammable materials can be used in fireplaces to get kindling burning — and this can be a good way to make use of such materials that have been torn up and are no longer useful for anything else.
There are also many arts-and-crafts projects that children can undertake using greeting cards. They can, for example, remove the fronts of used cards and use them to create new ones with cardstock or paper, and can then use these for their thank-you notes or to send their own greetings the following year — and with even less effort the fronts of greeting cards can be removed and used as postcards. Images on greeting cards can also be cut out and used in conjunction with pieces of ribbon, decorations from wrapped gifts, and twine or yarn to make colorful custom ornaments or turned into dioramas and standup figurines (maybe even an entire manger scene if you were lucky enough to receive the right cards). Cardstock printed with colorful or pleasing images, or even wide pieces of ribbon, can also be used to create personalized bookmarks, particularly for use with any new books children might have just received as gifts.
Kids can make use of giftwrap in similar ways. The blank backs of large sheets of used wrapping paper, for example, can be used for drawing and coloring pictures (note, however, that a disproportionate number of wives, mothers-in-law, and especially great aunts will consider encouraging children to use scrap paper rather than retail products like coloring books to be tantamount to cruelty, so be warned in advance.) Giftwrap can also be used to create collages and other works of art.
* Regift it. There are a number of organizations that accept donations of greeting cards and an online search can provide details about many of them. One of the most worthwhile of these is St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, which through its Recycled Card Program turns old cards into new ones and then sells them as a means of fundraising.