What to do with holiday cards? Recycle!

Two of our readers provided creative suggestions for how to recycle holiday cards in the comments section of our Holiday gifts: Out with the old in with the new post. Not wanting to have them lost in the shuffle, I wanted to pull them out to everyone’s attention.

From Jan:

I recycle my Christmas cards. They arrive in the mail, I read them, I cut the writing off the back, I turn them into a Christmas post card with a friend’s address, stamp and short message and repost immediately.

From Kate:

Once the holidays are over, I “massacre” [cards] into gift tags for next year using a pair of pinking shears.

For even more great ideas, check out the comments below and our other post on uncluttering holiday greeting cards.


This post has been updated since its original publication in 2007.

25 Comments for “What to do with holiday cards? Recycle!”

  1. posted by Jacki Hollywood Brown on

    You can always take the cards to a daycare centre or kindergarten classroom for crafts!

  2. posted by Michelle on

    I make homemade boxes out of Christmas cards which inevitably turn into tree ornaments with the aid of a hole-punch and colorful ribbon!

  3. posted by JAS on

    My city collects old cards (Christmas and otherwise) and uses them for community programs throughout the year.

  4. posted by Kris on

    I decorate the tops of plan boxes with them and use as gift boxes.

  5. posted by Ben on

    I tried to keep all of mine but there’s way too many after all these years. I suppose I will recycle the ones I really don’t find sentimental and possibly scan the rest and recycle all the hard copies.

    My scanner has really save some space in my house. If you don’t have a scanner you can always take a close up picture too.

  6. posted by Kenna on

    I recently came across an article in Family Fun magazine about ways to have a green holiday. One suggestion used old holiday cards to make gift cards holders. The directions and a template can be found at familyfun.com


  7. posted by Ruby on

    It takes a little strategic thinking sometimes, but I make gift tags out of most of them. (There’s usually some little vignette that you can cut out and still have room to write the “to” and “from”.) I’ve been doing this since I was a kid and didn’t like the cheap-looking gift tags and couldn’t afford the fancy ones!

  8. posted by PJK on

    As an elementary teacher, I always appreciated getting the pretty card fronts for our writing center. Simply cut the card along the fold, recycle the part of the card with writing and signatures. Send in the pretty fronts of the cards and students can write on the backs of them, making them into Christmas postcards.

  9. posted by jenC on

    Gift tags will be the way to go this year, and that goes for our leftover cards as well. Last year, I turned them in into magnets a la not martha (and others): http://www.notmartha.org/tomake/marblemagnets.

  10. posted by Baly on

    I find it’s easier to just alienate people starting right after Thanksgiving so that I neither receive nor need to send cards.

  11. posted by lisa on

    I enjoy my cards all year…see my idea for them in my related blog..

  12. posted by Lorena on

    My aunt has a really cool use for them — she’ll cut up the Christmas cards and glue them over the logos on those handled paper bags you get from retailers like Bath and Body Works. That way, you get rid of all those little, perfectly gift-sized bags and your Christmas cards!

  13. posted by Brooke on

    I loved the idea of turning them into postcards, but still wanted to send my own out into the world, and display them through Christmas (sort of a family tradition), So now Christmas is over I’m using the postcard idea for Christmas thank you notes.

  14. posted by Rachel on

    I read somewhere that you could scan your Christmas cards and then tag the scans with the year and family name. So you could review the cards one family has sent you over the last 10 years. Fun!

  15. posted by half baked on

    Baly, that was really funny!

    Each year I take that year’s stack of cards/letters sent to me, and I put them all in a large envelope and store them. The next year, I use that stack of cards as my mailing list for Christmas cards. After I send out my cards, I make them into gift tags.

    1. Instant pared-down mailing list
    2. Eliminated Christmas-card clutter
    3. Free gift tags

  16. posted by Joanna on

    My grandmother would make place mats out of her collection of Xmas cards. She would cut and arrange the Xmas cards into a collage, pasting them onto the back and front of a placemat-sized poster board. Then cover it with clear contact paper, folding the edges of the sticky contact paper over onto the back to make a nice crisp sealed edge.

    In the 1970s she’d give them as holiday gifts the following year. But now with the popularity of photo cards, I think it’s a nice way to display your loved ones photos year-round! Maybe close family members would appreciate the photo card place mats, too.

  17. posted by Saderchick on

    Most of the cards we receive are photo cards. I MINIMALLY scrapbook them, to retain the family name & greeting, into a (cheap & sturday) photo album for my 2 1/2 year old twins. Originally, I had planned to pack them away with the Christmas decorations, but they enjoy looking at the photos of their friends and family all year long, so they stay out. An added benefit is that when we see friends or cousins we haven’t seen in a while, my two ‘remember’ them from the cards & warm up to them more quickly.

  18. posted by Christmas Freebies/Recycling Christmas Cards | Pawpaw Holler Home on

    […] ornaments were stored in a big cardboard box covered with Christmas cards. For more ideas check out this post from Unclutterer. Anyone else have any good ideas? I’d love to hear […]

  19. posted by Joan on

    At the nursing home where I volunteer, we buy a package of sturdy card stock, fold each sheet in half and glue the front of the Christmas card to the card stock. And there you have it: brand new Christmas cards! We collect random blank envelopes all year and they usually accommodate most of the cards. Otherwise, the residents exchange cards with each other and staff and save some for family (no envelopes). For those who cannot write individual messages, we use craft stamps that say “Merry Christmas” or some other holiday message.

  20. posted by Fashion Blog on

    As soon as the holidays are over it would be a wise decision to store holiday cards in a cardboard. Then at your leisure time you may go through them. This will have a good impact on your mood.

  21. posted by Renee on

    I make place mats out of mine and use them for Christmas brunch. I have made coasters out of some of them as well. For either craft task, all you need to do is spread Elmer’s Glue onto a piece of construction paper, then stick the card onto it (so the signature isn’t visible) and let it dry, then cut it into the shape that you desire.

  22. posted by laura ann on

    We have been doing electronic holiday cards for years, songs even added. Postage free and hassle free. This incl B’day cards. Sent mine out several days ago.

  23. posted by Linda Paulin on

    my club recycles our cards by taking 3 fronts and turning them into 3D trees which we give to our local Meals on Wheels to serve as centerpieces for their clients. The seniors really look forward to them. We’ve recycles over 10 thousand cards

  24. posted by magnoliachica on

    I like the gift tag and placemat ideas!

    The photo ones I save by punching a hole in the corner and then putting them onto a binding ring. They are fun to flip through each year and see how friends’ kids are growing up. I do this also with birthday cards for my kids or the cards we got when they were born.

    With the decorative ones, I save any that I like and cut off the front.Then I save them with my gift decorating supplies. I like to wrap gifts in brown paper (a good way to reuse paper shopping bags!) and then use the cards to decorate the gifts, along with ribbons or other decorations. I do the same with other cards, whether birthday or otherwise.

  25. posted by Maira on

    Depending on a card’s design, I like to make bookmarks out of them and maybe laminate them though not necessary.

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