recyclechristmasUS (12/26/2013) — Christmas has come and gone, and now it is time to pack away the decorations and retire the tree for another season. It's also time to decide what to do with the dozens of greeting cards that arrived in the mail over the last few months.

According to the Greeting Card Association, around seven billion greeting cards are sold each year. Estimates suggest that roughly two billion are Christmas cards that will be sent during the month of December. These cards frequently hold sentimental value. Tossing them into the trash is wasteful, and some people would rather repurpose them into something that is meaningful and creative.

Many crafts, gifts and even boxes can be made from recycled Christmas cards and other greetings. With a little ingenuity and effort, it's possible to create eye-catching items. Here are just a few ideas.

* Cut the front panels off of the cards -- the part with the decoration -- and save them in an envelope for next year. When wrapping presents, use the cards as your gift tags.

* Use the front panels of cards as ornaments. Use stencils and cookie cutters to trace patterns and cut them out. Punch a hole into the top of each cut-out and attach a string to hang on a tree.

* Cut the card into strips and then laminate or cover in clear contact paper. Punch a hole in the top and attach a tassel. These can be used as bookmarks.

* Use cards to form paper angels that can serve as table centerpieces next year. With a few embellishments, like yarn hair and pipe-cleaner halos, these can make for some cheerful additions to your Christmas decor.

* Decorate inexpensive gift bags or brown paper bags with pieces of cut-up greeting cards. Now you have inexpensive wrapping materials for gifts that are also environmentally conscious.

* Gather the fronts of many cards and punch holes along the edges. Use yarn to sew each card to another, creating a Christmas tapestry, place mats or other creative ideas for decorating.

* Photo cards are popular greetings for Christmas. Cut out the images of families and friends from the cards and make a collage to be saved. You can look back each year and see how children have grown or fashions have changed.

* Use pieces of the Christmas cards to decoupage wooden or paper boxes. Then these boxes can be given as gifts for Christmas.

* Create drink coasters or trivets by cutting images out of the Christmas cards. Laminate the images and attach them to cork to serve as coasters. For trivets, attach images to ceramic tiles and then coat in a heat-resistant shellac.

Christmas cards do not need to be relegated to the trash can when the Christmas season has ended. Such cards can be used to create crafts that will add flair to upcoming Christmas season.

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