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For those of us working to reduce waste, gift-giving occasions can be a tad stressful. Unless we can suddenly convince all of our friends and family to go for reusable bags or newspaper wrapping, we are likely to be stuck with a disconcerting pile of trash. In a time of celebration, it can be a painful realization.

While persuading all people not to use wrapping is far-fetched for now, perhaps the next best option is making the most of the paper that is the collateral damage of a Christmas or birthday party. Rather than resigning ourselves to sending out an extra trash bag, we can find useful things to do with the lovely paper.

In fact, old wrapping paper has the potential to really pretty up some things, completely take the place of products we might buy, or produce items we never knew we wanted.

1. Homemade Envelopes

Making personal cards is always a nice gesture, something with sincerity that goes far beyond the funny joke card or Hallmark poem. For those into making personal cards, saving old wrapping paper can lead to making nice personalized envelopes. Making an envelope only takes a few folds, and that effort can save a bit of cash and add some funky flare to a card.

2. Holiday Banners

Typically, for those occasions when gifts are being given, banners and bunting are decorating the space. Instead of going out and buying these new each time (using up more resources and creating more trash), old wrapping paper can make dandy decorations. It’s just a matter of drawing the letters, cutting them out, and stringing them together.

3. Package Packing

Many gifts come in boxes and require either stuffing to fill the empty space or to provide protection in the case of fragile items. Instead of going out and buying crepe paper or bubble wrap, old wrapping paper makes great packing, with the added bonus of continuing the celebration inside the box. Ball it up or shred it.

4. Line Drawers/Shelves

Every now and again, a really tasteful friend or aunt will manage to find wrapping paper that simply defies disposability. It’s just too beautiful, and though we insist on saving, we rarely know to what end. Well, that kind of wrapping paper is perfect for lining permanent things in the house: cabinets, drawers, shelves, etc.

5. Ribbons & Bows

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With gift-wrapped boxes, often come ribbons and bows. Rather than going out to buy these items (again, using more resources and creating more trash), strips of spent wrapping paper can provide the same effect as ribbons, and it’s really not all that difficult to make a bow. Plus, these ribbons and bows could potentially have extra pizzazz.

6. Book and Box Covers

Another use for really exceptional paper, the kind that warrants lining drawers and shelves, is to cover books or boxes with them. Lots of people buy decorative boxes to store stuff in, but that isn’t really necessary. All that’s needed is some old cardboard boxes and old wrapping paper. Otherwise, nice paper makes really nice book covers for school or the home library.

7. Themed Placemats

Like with banners and bunting, where presents are likely to be, decorations generally follow. This often includes thematic napkins, paper plates, and lots of other disposable stuff. Try cutting down on the waste by using old wrapping paper to create placemats for the party. It’s as easy as cutting out some rectangles.

8. Holiday “Art”

Once all the shelves are lined and all the books are covered, there is still more that can be done to appreciate beautiful wrapping paper. There is always cutting out a piece and framing it or even just taping it on the glass of a framed picture. This can help to create holiday ambiance, or if the paper pattern is worthy, it can be a permanent decoration.

9. Tree Ornaments

Presents are often holiday generosity, so the wrapping paper has the right kind of sentiment for the season. Instead of tossing out the paper, it can make awesome ornaments. After gluing the holiday wrapping paper to some thin cardboard, such as from cereal boxes, it can be cut into holiday shapes like trees, stars, bows, bells, etc. It’s a great project for children.

10. Paper Beads

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With just about any kind of wrapping paper, beautiful or not, there is the potential to make lovely beads. All it takes is cutting the paper into triangles and rolling them up with a bit of glue at the end. This can make many shapes and sizes of beads, and the beads can then be used to create necklaces, bracelets, or beaded curtains.

In other words, perhaps grandmas knew what they were doing when they unwrapped gifts slowly, careful not to tear the paper. Why waste a perfectly good resource when so much could be done with it? This holiday season and for the next birthday, perhaps it’ll be time to start collecting old wrapping paper for new projects.

Lead Image Source: Flickr