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Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License,

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Recycle & Reuse Holiday Cards

By Vicki McClure Davidson


After the holidays are over, and the decorations are packed away and the Christmas tree is back in the attic or is recycled, there's still the matter of dealing with the holiday cards your family has received.

What to do with them? Many people keep them in a festive basket to enjoy for a little longer, but once the Super Bowl has ended, or the iris in your garden has started to poke up through the soil, still having Christmas cards out as a decoration may be a little too much for most of us.

While they're too pretty to callously throw away, and many people thoughtfully sent them to you, they're still taking up valuable space in your home. What can you do with them?


How to recycle and reuse holiday cards. | Photo credit:
How to recycle and reuse holiday cards. | Photo credit:
  1. Donate them to a worthy charity. St. Jude's Ranch for Children, a non-profit home for abused and neglected youths, runs a holiday recycled card program in which the children there cut off the front covers of the cards, glue them on to new cards, and sell the finished products. This program helps the children earn them cash and build self-confidence. Go to their website at for more information. Other local charities and outreach programs in your area may also appreciate getting these cards to use for their after-school arts and crafts sessions with low-income children. Many of these programs are operated on shoestring budgets and the instructors are usually delighted to receive any donated craft items. Look the organization up in your phone directory or on the Internet to inquire if they can use the holiday cards.
  2. Keep them in your home craft box for summer crafts for children. This is a wonderful creative project to keep young children occupied during the long days of summer. Pull out the cards in June or July (yay, Christmas in July!) and with some construction paper, glue, and safety scissors, they can create colorful scrapbook pages, recycled holiday cards to give to the relatives in December, or they can decorate notebooks or other items in their bedrooms. Small cut-outs can be glued onto folded index cards for instant mini-notes or gift box tags.

    This will save you a bit of money come next Christmas in that you won't have to buy gift box tags.
  3. Decorate coffee cans for holiday gift goodies. If your family makes cookies, fudge, and other delectable goodies to give to family and neighbors during the holidays, you can use the holiday cards to decorate coffee cans in which to hold them. Cut a sized piece of butcher paper or white wrapping paper and glue it to the can (wash and dry the inside of the can first). Be sure to cut the paper straight and leave about 1/4 inch from the top of the can so that the can's lid will still fit once the paper is adhered to it. Cut out various pictures from holiday cards and arrange and glue these on top of the paper, creating a collage. Children of all ages will enjoy helping with this craft project. Best of all, you won't have to buy any tins or plastic containers to put your gift goodies in. Start saving coffee cans during the summer, or ask people at work if they have any they would like to recycle. Schools and churches also serve a lot of coffee and may save coffee cans as a matter of course. Don't be afraid to ask!
  4. Table placemats for next year's holidays. Make colorful table placemats out of holiday cards instead of buying new ones. You can out pictures or shapes from the old cards, place them between two pieces of contact paper, and when done, press the contact paper together. Sized poster board can also be used. This is another wonderful craft project for children during the summer.
  5. Make them into tree decorations. This is a fabulous and easy craft project for younger children. With safety scissors, have the child cut out around the part of the card he or she has chosen to hang on the tree. Punch a hole near the top. Glue some decorative fabric, ribbon, or rick-rack around the edges. Let it thoroughly dry and then hang it on the tree with ribbon threaded through the punched hole. These make lovely inexpensive gifts for the child to make to give to a favorite teacher, to the sports coach, or to Grandma. They can also glue on the other side of the card a small photo of themselves.
  6. Homeschooling or elementary-age teaching tool. With younger students, write in block print with a dark felt-tipped pen, like a Sharpie®, a simple math problem or sentence or grammar exercise on the back side (non-picture side) of many cards. These then can be used as a motivating educational game. The students can 'buy' the card by answering the math problem or reading the sentence aloud, or solving the grammar exercise. He or she can then glue it to a larger sheet of construction paper to make into their own personalized holiday card for someone they love.
  7. Recycle as holiday postcards. Cut off the backs of the holiday cards that do not have writing on them and use them to jot out a quick message on the post card. These can be sent to troops in the war zone as early as mid November. Postage for post cards is a little cheaper than it is for regular mail, so you'll save a bit of money mailing them this way. If your hands aren't too steady with scissors when cutting them, it may help to use an office paper cutter to get a clean, straight cut.

Nearly 3 billion holiday cards are purchased in the United States each year, and far too many end up in landfills. Find a "second life" for these beautiful cards!


Related Reading:
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Frugal Café Blog Zone: Christmas on a Shoestring: Frugal Origami Christmas Ornaments, Using Old Phonebooks (video)
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