5 Creative Ways to Recycle A Gift Bag

One of MY favorite parts of Christmas is the LOOT!  It’s not what you think – I’m talking about the free gift wrapping paraphenalia after all the presents are opened!  Seriously, if I never received one present, I’d be content with scavenging all the completely useful wrapping paper, bows, ribbons, and gift bags from other people’s gifts.  Those things are valuable to me – they save us so much money every year – and every one of my children knows how to unwrap a present so as not to ruin the “goods”.  I’ve probably only bought gift-wrapping items maybe 5 times in the last 16 years.

It all started when my husband and I were opening our wedding gifts – he teased me about how I was saving everything – the paper, tissue, real ribbon, and even silk flowers.  He doesn’t tease me (much) anymore, since we have never had to buy wedding paper for gifts, and still have a little left!  The game has now spread to our children.  They used to giggle, trying to tear and wrinkle up the paper from their gifts before I could snatch it from them – until they wanted to wrap gifts and I told them how much wrapping paper costs.  Now the game goes like this, “Hey, these are my gifts, Mom – don’t I get the wrapping paper?  How about you trade me some of that shiny stuff you have over there…”

Here’s 5 creative ideas for recycling an entire gift bag:

1. Reuse it for another gift-giving occasion.

Obviously, this is the simplest, most common way to reuse a gift bag – not exactly new or creative, but definitely practical and frugal. We save gift bags from all events, along with their accompanying tissue paper. These get recycled sometimes for many years, especially if the gift goes between local family – I still have some from over 10 years ago.  Grandma has her “birthday bag” that gets handed right back to her after one of my children pulls out their gift.  In my circle of friends, we often ask each other, “Do you want the bag back?”

In the past, when gift bags began to get a little too wrinkled for gift-giving, I used them to store and organize gift boxes, other folded gift bags, and ribbons in my gift-wrapping stash.  Last week, however, I discovered some beautiful ways to use up the rest of the bag and save even more money!

2. Make reusable paper stars.

These origami Christmas stars are absolutely stunning when made from a shiny gift bag.  The two large stars were made from the front and back of the bag, and the seven smaller stars were made from the sides.  I put together a video tutorial that shows you how to make these simple stars that can be used one season, then folded up and stored for the next season.  Now that I think of it, this would probably be the only reason I would actually buy a brand-new gift bag – to cut it up and make these ornaments, either for myself or for gifts.  I’m thinking of different sparkly colors and garlands of small stars…

3. Use the cord handles to hang the large stars or other homemade ornaments.

While folding the large stars, I was considering how to hang them up – when the sparkly gold cord caught my eye.  Perfect!  I snipped the bag to release the cord handle, poked a hole in the top of one of the stars, and pulled a loop of the cord through.  I didn’t even have to tie any knots this way.

4. Make your own fancy gift bows.

I’m positively giddy over this new skill I learned just today!  After making stars from most of the gift bag, I was left with several large scraps. I thought of using them for short ribbons, but they were a little too wrinkled to look nice that way.  An idea popped into my head, and a quick search turned up this pictorial on how to make your own gift bows from old magazines – I’m absolutely hooked!  The large bow is my very first attempt ever at making my own gift bow, and I’m pleased with the results.  The little bow is half-finished, next to more gold strips waiting to be added.  I didn’t have any brass fasteners at first, so I finagled a paper clip with pliers to work well enough for me.

5. Use the remaining scraps and cardboard for other crafts and projects.

After finding some brass fasteners and making a couple other bows from glossy newspaper inserts (told you I was hooked!) I wanted a way to keep the bottom of the bows flat – they were “poofy” and would have been difficult to attach to a present.  Ding!  The remainder of the gift bag finally had a purpose – the thin cardboard support from the bottom of the bag.  I cut a square of cardboard and attached it to the bottom of each bow and they are just perfect.

All of this came from one gift bag!  The small white pieces of cardboard and edging will probably be thrown away.  The extra gold pieces will go in the “scrap box” for my children to use in paper collages.

How do you recycle and reuse gift-wrapping items?  I’m always on the lookout for new ideas!

handmade projectsFine Craft Guild

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19 comments to 5 Creative Ways to Recycle A Gift Bag

  • One thing you can use a gift bag for is because it is usually thicker, it makes a great gift box if cut down to shape and taped!

  • You’re so clever! I’m inspired! Alas, I’m almost completely out of crafting fodder. Dollar Tree here I come! Do ya think they still have any gift bags left this late in the game?

    • Cardamom

      I’ll take “clever” – since I’m usually lovingly called “nutty”! I have no idea about the gift store dollar bags, but I think we’ll find out Thursday. That’s when we’re headed over there for stocking stuffers… And now I’m inspired – I forgot the dollar store had gift bags – that’s way less than Wal-Mart!

  • I used to use nice gift bags as small wastebaskets for my bedrooms, I even put grocery bag liners in them. I just tossed them when they got too beat up.

  • Kristen

    How fun! I applaud your efforts 🙂 I would get just as much satisfaction doing exactly everything you did.

    Just wanted to share that today I could not throw out my kleenex box because I saw how easily I could turn it into gift tags. Just cut squares and punch a hole. The paisley design was too pretty just to toss!

  • Lisa

    My daughter keeps nothing… She hates it that my mother is a hoarder, and my father can reuse anything for any purpose, (you should see what he can do with a piece of chicken wire) and therefore vows not to keep anything that could be trash. She once left a bench dining room table set in an apt she was moving out of because she was going to have to use 2 trips to move it. I’m in the middle of the road and keep things for sentimental reason, but am far from being in the hoarder stage. We are talking paper, toys furniture, you name it, when she is done with it, she is done! It doesn’t matter if all something needs is a piece of tape to fix it, or just to polish a piece of furniture. Just this past year when buying b-day presents for my grandson it dawned on me, why was I spending $5 for a bag with his favorite character on it when she would just throw it away regardless of how much he liked it and wanted to keep it. So I suggested to her that she cut one side of the bag off around the folds and hang it on in his room like a poster, and the other side of the bag had a similar character, just smaller, as well as other of the same themed characters and told her to cut those individuals out and hang them as well. Because the bags are made out of such a strong paper they hang very well, better then actual posters. An inexpensive way to decorate his room and every year he has a new favorite theme, so he can change his room as he gets older. Also, there are often several choices of bags with the same theme, so he can have more than one poster if he gets different ones. That works well with the really big bags, and my daughter didn’t just throw my money away and my grandson was very happy to have Ironman on his wall. For girls you can cut around each flower and etc…

    • Cardamom

      That’s a great idea – the cord for hanging it up is right there! There are so many bags with cool themes – some probably have artwork that is frameable! Thanks!

  • Rae

    sent here from moneysavingmom and love your ideas 🙂 I save and reuse giftbags as well and we save “nice” wrapping paper (ie: not dollar store paper as that tends to get the color rubbed off it all over) also. Oh and bows and nice ribbon. My sister and I use wrapping paper for next year’s cards. I love the bow idea. I actually don’t even think about using ribbon and bows because of my cats (they are so naughty!) but I’ll have to remember that for friend gifts 🙂

  • Rae

    oh and just because I like to bedazzle things, I’d probably coat the inside of the stars with a coordinating color of glitter lol. Like green glitter with a red star, blue glitter with a silver star, etc 😛

  • Rhoda

    Wonderful ideas. Love the glitter/glitzing idea from Rae! Perfect way to finish off the inside.

  • So creative! I love the idea of using them to make gift bows! I think my kids would enjoy making those during Christmas break!

  • Love it! My 10 year-old son loves to save trash/scraps to create art. He’s gonna love these ideas, thanks! 🙂

  • ok, I am inspired. I am going to set my crafty daughter on this!

  • I too save and reuse gift bags, bows, etc. but I’ve never used them for anything creative like this, LOL! I LOVE those stars! We’re definitely going to have to try them. Thanks for the wonderful ideas!

  • Rachel

    Hello! I am here from WFMW. I like these ideas a lot. So crafty. If you use sturdier bags, they last quite some time. I have used gift bags for carrying stuff around, like lotion, lip balm, snack, or whatever else might be in a purse or school bag (but isn’t), to and from work or school, etc. My favorite bags to use were actually store bags ~ Aveda and Bath & Body Works (small bags) are the perfect size for what I needed, and you could fit just enough in them so they did not become too heavy for the handles to support.

  • Awesome ideas! :0) Thanks for sharing!

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