Green Rookie: After-Christmas Cleanup

Reader Contribution by Julie and The Green Rookie On A Budget
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Christmas may have passed, but the remnants of the holiday festivities remain–piles of wrapping paper, boxes, and ribbons; tangled strands of lights; trees losing needles all over the living room floor.

Fortunately, cleaning up after another holiday season is easier–and more earth-friendly–than ever with these tips for clearing out the post-Christmas clutter.


Don’t throw out wrapping paper just because it’s torn; you can strategically place bows and ribbon over the ripped areas. NH Archives.

Is any of that gift wrap salvageable? If so, smooth it out, fold it neatly and stash it away for next year. Gift bags in particular are easy to reuse. You might be able to salvage ribbons too.

If that won’t work, why not tackle some craft projects to get a head start on next year’s gift giving? C. Jeanne Heida recommends using leftover gift wrap and bows for scrapbooking, paper mache projects, book covers, paper bead-making, or decoupaging trinket or cookie boxes or frames.

If all else fails, it’s time to recycle–maybe. If your paper has foil, glitter, metallic coatings, or too many leftover pieces of tape, most recycling programs can’t accept it. However, if your friends and family thought ahead and wrapped with the right paper, go ahead and toss it in the recycling bin. Check with your local recycling center to see if there are any gift-wrap collection programs in your area.

One more idea: If that wrapping paper can’t be recycled or saved, shred it. You’ll have the perfect packing material for gifts or other packages you send throughout the coming year.

Then next year, make life even easier by wrapping gifts in reusable items–think a pretty dish towel or a scarf–so there isn’t any waste to worry about at all.


Hold on to leftover gift boxes and use them for packing and sending gifts throughout the year. Photo By Julie Collins.

Reuse or recycle those empty boxes rather than leaving them at the curb for the garbage truck to pick up. If your boxes are in good shape, stash them away for future mailing or packing projects. If you prefer not to leave the clutter lying around your house, break down the boxes and have them recycled. Many curbside recycling programs accept cardboard; if not, look for recycling centers or grocery stores in your area that will take them.


Bulbrite’s energy-efficient LED chain lights are available in three styles. Photo Courtesy Bulbrite.

If your indoor or outdoor lights called it quits this year, looking for light recycling in your area or send the lights to They’ll recycle them for you and give you a discount on your next purchase.

Need new strands? Score after-Christmas deals on LED lights, which use 90 percent less energy than incandescents and last for thousands of hours.

If your lovely lights will last another year, keep them tidy–and reuse supplies you already have on hand–by cutting a slit in each end of an empty wrapping paper tube, threading the end of the lights through the slit, and wrapping them around the tub. Or use a piece of cardboard from one of those boxes leftover from gift-giving–the easy how-tos are available thanks to Chrisjob over at Curbly.


Regardless of whether or not you opted for a natural of artificial Christmas tree, remember to reuse and recycle your holiday tree. Photo Courtesy Clover Hollow/NH Archives.

It’s too late to debate this year whether natural or artificial trees are better for the environment, but if you did opt for a live Christmas tree you have some great options for extending its use or recycling it.

If you have a wood-burning stove, one of the easiest ways to get the most out of your tree is to cut it up and use it for firewood. Don’t have a stove? Save the wood for burning while roasting marshmallows at an outdoor fire pit next summer, or pass it along to friends and neighbors who could use it this winter.

Another option is to leave your unadorned tree outside for the birds–literally. Purdue Extension explains how you can turn your Christmas tree into a bird feeder in the backyard.

Another possibility: Use a woodchipper to turn your boughs into mulch for trees, shrubs and flower beds.

Then again, if you don’t have the tools or time for any of these DIY options, you can simply recycle your tree. Learn all about how and where to recycle this year’s tree at

What other eco-friendly holiday cleanup ideas do you put to use? I’d love to add some new ones to next year’s post-holiday list, so please share!

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