sustainable holiday diy ideas

Sustainable DIY holiday decor

The holiday season brings joy…. and trash

Any major holiday season is the time when a lot of people forget about sustainability and honor traditions over environmental impact. In the US, where this season starts with Halloween and lasts through New Year and the consumer market is strong, people produce 25% more waste over the holidays than any other time of the year. It amounts to 25 million tons of garbage ON TOP of what they normally throw away.

Stanford University calculated:
“If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.”

PSSI / Stanford Recycling Land, Buildings & Real Estate

But of course, holidays, especially Christmas, are the favorite time for millions of people filled with love, happy memories, and cozy winter nights. We can’t let statistics kill joy.

In the past few years, with the growing popularity of the DIY movement, many people opt to spruce up their holidays with hand-made decor and gifts. And this is an awesome alternative to the excessive consumption of seasonal goods. But here comes another problem… The growing number of YouTube channels and lifestyle blogs constantly create holiday content teaching people how to use cheap dollar-store items for their seasonal DIY projects. This is an extremely wasteful trend! People are buying cheap plastic stuff to use parts of it for DIY projects, dispose of the rest, and most likely won’t reuse their creations next year.

We believe that there’s a way to make your Christmas sustainable while keeping it cozy, beautiful, and trendy and having a little DIY fun. So, here’s what we propose.

Don’t buy, borrow

The first rule of a sustainable lifestyle discourages people from buying new things. This perfectly applies to holidays:

  • Use what you have. If you don’t get bored from using the same decor every year, it’s the best way. But if you like changing the theme of your Christmas decor, it’s nice to have at least a core base of decor that you use year over year. Things like faux Christmas trees, wreaths, garland, basic tree ornaments, and lights.
  • Swap or borrow from friends. Chances are your friends and neighbors also like to change stuff around for holidays. Ask around and invite them for a swap-meet party to exchange decor and ornaments. This way no one has to buy new things and everyone has new decorations.
  • Buy second-hand. If you absolutely need to buy something, make second-hand stores and Facebook groups your first stop.

For all you DIY-ers we have a few ideas below and a lot more in our Sustainable Christmas Decor Pinterest board. But please, don’t rush to buy supplies for the idea you like! Challenge yourself to look around and use what you already have on hand. We know you, crafty people, you can create from anything!

Trees from recycled materials

There are many creative ways to get a Christmas tree without getting a Christmas tree. If you can’t find one second-hand and don’t mind going ‘unconventional’ you can reimagine your tree from pretty much anything.

  • Floor standing trees from reclaimed wood or old pallets are still in trend. An A-shaped wooden ladder with appropriate decor will make a great rustic or boho tree. This is what I’m doing at my house this year.
  • Who said the tree should stand on the floor? You can create a wall-hanging tree with some macrame, wood sticks, yarn, and some ornaments.
  • Table-top trees can be as easy as cardstock cones wrapped with leftover yarns or reused gift wrappers and ribbons from last year.

Check this section on Pinterest for more ideas.

Holiday wreaths and garlands

You DIY-wizards will love this one! Because it seems like you can make holiday wreaths and garlands practically from anything – from old newspapers to fresh cranberries – as long as you have a wreath form and a string for the garland. So why not think of sustainable materials instead of buying new cheap plastic stuff only to rip it apart and glue it on the wreath form?

Here are a few types of materials you can use to create a sustainable wreath and garlands:

  • Old newspapers, magazines, reused wrapping paper, and even candy wrappers from the Halloween extravaganza.
  • Leftover yarn from that sweater project to make pompoms or wrap around the form, jute rope or twine, reused ribbons from last year’s gifts.
  • Natural materials like pine cones, fir sprigs (you can usually get for free and the Christmas tree Bazar), dried fruit slices like apples and oranges, cinnamon sticks, cranberries, and popcorn.

Add some of the ornaments you already have or are going to make from our suggestion below – and here you have it!

And by the way, you can make a wreath form from an old shipping box and add old plastic bags for puffiness. Great way to save both from the landfill!

Check this section on Pinterest for more ideas and tutorials.


In terms of sustainable materials, all things listed above are great for creating ornaments, too! You may have to learn some simple origami skills for the paper ornaments, but isn’t it the whole point of DIY?

In addition to that, you can make ornaments from:

  • Seashells
  • Salty dough (you can a few drops of essential oil in)
  • Paper mache
  • Fabrics
  • Old toys
  • And even unconventional items like doorknobs, picture frames, keys, and keychains, or used paint brushes

Find more ideas and tutorials in this Pinterest section.

Gift wrapping

Not only does a nicely wrapped gift keep the surprise till Christmas morning, but it also shows your loved ones how much thought and care you put into it. We get it. But think about those football fields worth of paper waste we create every year by using wrapping paper! Most of that paper can’t be sustainably recycled due to the pigments, coating, and embellishments used in its production.

Why not go with more sustainable options like:

  • Brown paper (you can reuse paper grocery bags), newspaper, or any reused paper.
  • Burlap or cotton fabrics. You can even use a scarf or neckerchief which will be an addition to the gift.
  • Create natural toppers from sprigs, cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices, etc.
  • Use leftover yarn and jute twine instead of ribbons.
  • Write your wishes right on the wrapper, so you don’t have to buy a card.

You will find more ideas for sustainable gift wrapping in this Pinterest section.

Have fun DIY-ing your sustainable holiday decor! Follow us on Pinterest as we keep adding more sustainable ideas to our collection.

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  1. Used a link from this post in my post, “Frugal Eco-Friendly Ways to Spruce Up for the Holidays.” Would appreciate it if you would check my post out, and give it some social love. Happy Holidays and think and act sustainably. Nancy Andres at Colors 4 Health

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