Upcycle Your Giftwrap

Dec 26, 2013 1:00 PM ET
Campaign: GM Waste Reduction


Wrapping paper: It’s one of the single largest waste products produced during the holidays.

When it comes to waste, we’ve turned oil booms into parts for the Chevrolet Volt, and scrap vehicle sound-absorption material into winter coats for the homeless, so we know a thing or two about how to handle it.

But there are tons of innovative things you can do with wrapping paper after the kids are done tearing open their presents.

Whether it’s for decorations or something more practical, here are our top 10 ideas for giving your holiday paper a fresh, new start.

10. Line a Drink Tray (or whatever you want)

You don’t need to be super-crafty to do this activity and that’s probably why we like it so much. All you have to do is measure the interior base of a rimmed serving tray. Then, cut the wrapping paper to fit those measurements. Insert the cut paper into the tray, secure it with double-sided tape if needed and voila! An incredibly chic tray liner for serving drinks.

You can also give drawers, shelves and storage boxes the same treatment. A bit of color and pattern is an awesome way to brighten up utilitarian spaces.

9. Book Covers

Wrap your favorite tomes to look pretty on a shelf or use the paper to protect your children’s textbooks for school. Backing your books keeps their covers in good condition.

If you’ve never done this before, Paper Source has great tips.

Make sure you use thick, high-quality paper for this as thin paper will tear too easily.

8. Recycled Notebooks

This idea is a bit more complicated and it comes from DIY maven Martha Stewart. Basically it involves creating books of paper with 25 sheets each (Martha recommends locating a heavy-duty paper cuter for efficiency purposes).

Log onto Stewart’s site for a step-by-step tutorial, or watch this video.

7. Bookmarks/Gift Tags

Yes, you can easily cut a strip of paper from a big section of giftwrap to make a bookmark, but to be honest, it wouldn’t last.

A much sturdier solution is to cut a rectangle from an old cereal box and glue on the wrap. If you’re on a budget, similarly constructed bookmarks make a good gift as well.

6. Origami

Wrapping paper is perfect for origami. Really. It’s a nice way to turn treasured paper into a lasting memento. Origami-fun! has a great instructional for making cranes and baby birds.

5. Gift Bags

The most direct way to make a gift bag out of wrapping paper is to fold a strip of it in half, tape the side edges together and tape it up. If you prefer a cleaner look, use glue.

A blog called Aunt Annie’s Crafts has some clear and easy instructions with pictures so you won’t go wrong.

4. Padding

Is your wrapping paper damaged or less than perfect looking? Take it through a paper shredder and presto, you have something new to stuff gift bags with. This paper works extremely well as padding for when you want to send boxes of gifts through the mail.

3. Bows

Sure, you can just go to the store and buy a bow. But why not make your present show a bit more thought and style? While it’s preferred that you make bows from magazines, you can also do it with wrapping paper.

This is a handy guide about just how to do that.

2. Frame It

Too pretty to recycle? Hang it on the wall for a graphic touch or use it as a border for your photos.

1.Wrap Another Present

If the ideas above seem a little too intricate for your tastes, there’s always the old standby. Save the giftwrap for next year and see if you can’t refresh the look with other decorative accents like bows and ribbon.

It doesn’t get easier than that.

This post originally appeared on our Drive the District blog.