How To Put Gift Giving Waste to Good Use

5583030896 0d539d3339 How To Put Gift Giving Waste to Good Use

Written by guest contributor and Green Home Improvement Journalist, Jakob Barry.

Now that a few days have passed since all the gifts have been opened, what’s left is a bunch of packaging stuffed behind the tree or in a box ready to be trashed. Even with greener ways to wrap gifts there’s still going to be a little post-unwrapping debris to clear away so it can’t be avoided altogether.

Then there are the few odd presents that you know you’ll never use but if they weren’t given with a receipt for possible exchange you can’t simply hand them back to the gift giver.

The fact is they have to be accepted with love and put aside until further notice but that doesn’t remove their status as a different kind of ‘waste’ needing attention. After all, storing these items in a closet only puts off their eventual removal.

That said, as you rummage through the post holiday cleanup contemplating how to deal with all these issues, what to recycle and what to reuse, here’s a few ideas to consider when it comes to some of the more obvious gift giving clutter most likely sitting in your home.

Wrapping Paper

There’s always some gift wrap that wasn’t completely ripped to shreds so the big question is can any of it be salvaged? Even if it’s already a bit crinkled it can still be reused as a base for decorating the outside of future gifts.

One of my favorite ways to present a gift is covering the item with photos of the person receiving it and doing so requires a backing. Any old paper will do but why not used gift wrap. Alternatively shapes and designs on the used paper can be cut out and set aside for future art projects so store it neatly with your craft supplies.


Cardboard boxes and other packing materials can be repurposed in several ways.

Some examples are:

  • For moving: Temporarily save them for people who may be moving in the near future. If necessary break down boxes so they can be stacked in a safe place until needed.
  • As puzzle backing: Cardboard works as a backing for puzzles, especially if you want to glue the puzzle together and hang it up after it’s assembled.
  • As canvas: Some art projects need specialized paper or canvas but if you’re just planning to sit down and follow your stream of consciousness wherever it takes you cardboard makes a great medium to draw or paint on.
  • Styrofoam: This material can take half a millennium before it begins to biodegrade meaning there’s a lot at stake when it comes to the environment. Unfortunately very few recycling centers exist because the process is costly and only a handful of companies will reuse it if sent back to them. That’s why it’s essential to constantly find new ways to reuse Styrofoam including the following:
  • Make new holiday ornaments for next year. Styrofoam is a durable substance that can be cut into all kinds of shapes and sizes and painted. As we know it lasts forever so anything made now will be just as good in another twelve months.
  • For repacking. Advertise on social media sites that you’re giving away free materials for protecting breakables. Someone is bound to reach out and tell you you’ve saved their day.
  • Contribute to a local school’s art department. Budgets are tight and teachers are always looking for new resources. Styrofoam can be a good addition.


When it comes to gifts that you aren’t planning on keeping and can’t be returned or exchanged try one of the following routes:

  • Donate: There are various organizations that accept clothing, toys and all kinds of items.
  • Re-gift: If you received something you already have there’s nothing wrong with re-gifting and passing it on.
  • Sell: There are plenty of second hand stores or internet sites where you may get a good deal. Contact them and try it out.
  • Giveaway: Use it as a giveaway on your blog!
  • Prize: If someone gave you a new computer and you recently bought one the gift could be used as a prize for a raffle or lottery where all the proceeds go to charity.


Jakob Barry is a home improvement journalist for He writes about eco-friendly topics for remodeling and PinExt How To Put Gift Giving Waste to Good Use

  • Tiffany C.

    Oooh!! Love the idea of using cardboard for puzzle backing!! GOTTA DO IT! Great ideas, AMity!

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