Waste-free holiday: Create creative and eye-catching holiday decorations and gift wrap by reusing everyday materials

Waste-free holiday: Create creative and eye-catching holiday decorations and gift wrap by reusing everyday materials
Posted on 12/04/2017

The holidays are a time for togetherness and giving, but during the holidays more trash is created than at any other time of the year. Reduce your environmental impact this holiday season by choosing to reduce and reuse.


Alternative Gift Wrap Ideas

  • Gift Boxes: Decorate cereal, shoe or other boxes instead of buying new.
  • Wrapping Paper: Use comics, maps, calendars, posters and fabric wrapping. Fabric wrapping can be knotted, pinned or tied with a ribbon.
  • Ribbons and Bows: Reuse last year’s bows. Make bows out of yarn, dried flowers, video/ audio tape, or Mylar food wrappers. Make bows out of leftover wrapping paper.
  • Mason Jars and Clay Flower Pots: Package gifts such as baking mixes, bath supplies and more in mason jars. Use fabric scraps, wrapping paper or homemade “bee wraps” for a decorative lid. Clay flower pot bases can be used as a lid and secured to the pot with ribbon, twine or string.
  • Gift Tags: Write the name on the wrapping itself or make tags from last year’s cards.


As a child, Master Recycler Program Coordinator Kelly Bell recalls creating homemade gift wrap using paint, paper grocery sacks and stamps made from a potato (cut a potato in half and carve a shape on the flat side). As an adult Bell usually leaves the paper sacks whole and decorates them for use as gift bags in the same way.

Bell also uses a pattern and instructions she found online to make beautiful flowers from old calendars and other used paper.

“I am using the paper flowers as gift bows to decorate packages,” Bell said. “It’s very enjoyable and satisfying to make something so easy, yet beautiful, out of objects that no longer serve their original purpose.”

Alternative Decoration Ideas

  • Trim a tree with popcorn, cranberries or pinecones—these items are typically compostable. (Never feed wildlife “people food,” including popcorn.)

  • Make snowflakes from 6-pack rings, delightful wreaths from old greeting cards, and a garland of stars from non-recyclable plastic packaging.
  • Decorate a live tree in your yard. Bring a potted tree or evergreen boughs inside to decorate.
  • Place wrapping paper in frames for seasonal décor or use it to make fun, easy placemats.
  • Use wrapping paper to build a paper Christmas tree (recyclable!), hanging streamers or bunting.


Lane County’s Waste-Free Holiday webpage has instructions for fun holiday activities to do with family or friends, such as gift boxes made from last year’s greeting cards. A quick online search will yield many more ideas.


Waste-Free Holidays Campaign

Lane County Master Recyclers invite community members to celebrate the season of giving by reducing, reusing, and recycling waste that is typically generated at the holidays. The Waste-Free Holidays Campaign highlights several fun, low-cost and simple waste prevention strategies families can use from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day – or any time of year! Visit www.lanecounty.org/wastefreeholidays to view tips and resources to help create a truly enjoyable season. New items are added throughout the season so check back periodically for inspiration.


Lane County Master Recycler Program

Master Recyclers bridge the gap between awareness and action by motivating people to reduce solid waste at home, work and play. Lane County Master Recycler volunteers provide more than 3,000 hours of waste prevention education to residents, businesses and events each year. Visit www.lanecounty.org/masterrecyclers to learn more.


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