Recycled Christmas How-To

Make the holidays a little greener by using repurposed materials like bottle caps and old greeting cards to make ornaments and gift tags.

Make the holidays a little greener by using repurposed materials like bottle caps and old greeting cards to make ornaments and gift tags.

With gifts for family, friends, and sometimes even co-workers – not to mention all the décor – Christmas is a holiday that can turn out to be very expensive. This year save a little green, and even make the planet a bit greener, by adding recycling to your Christmas celebrations. Here are some ideas to get you started in reusing, repurposing, and recycling that won’t break the bank.


• Choose alternative gift wrapping: Instead of buying expensive gift wrapping paper use other materials you may already have at home like paper grocery bags, and newspaper pages – especially the colorful Sunday comics. Cut the paper to size, taping several sheets or pages together if needed, then wrap each gift.


Invite your children to decorate the paper for a more personal touch with ribbon, paint, stickers, or washi tape. Make a gift tag from last year’s Christmas cards by simply cutting out a rectangular shape from the front of the card. If you have craft supplies at home, you can make the corners rounded with a corner punch. Punch a hole at one end to tie a ribbon and attach to your gift.


Sometimes one of the gift items can be used as a wrapper. For example, spread a t-shirt out on a flat surface with the design face down. Place the additional gifts in the center of the shirt, then take the opposite ends of the shirt and tie them together in a loose knot. Add a gift tag with a festive ribbon to secure the items inside. (For more instructions on using fabric, do a web search for ‘furokoshi fabric wrap’.)


An empty cereal box can be reused as a sturdy gift bag too. Prepare the box by first cutting off the top flaps, and removing any plastic bags and food left inside. Fold the side panels vertically in half to create a crease that will allow the top of the box to close. If desired, cut an oval towards the top of the front and back of the box to serve as handles. Decorate the box with paint, newspaper, or other materials.


• Make your own ornaments: Decorate your Christmas tree with items rescued from the recycling bin. For example, three bottle caps laid out in a row are the beginning of a snowman. Paint the inside of the cap white, then glue the caps to a ribbon using a hot glue gun. Two bottle caps are for the body, and the other is for the head. Decorate the head by drawing small eyes, mouth, and a nose, then draw the buttons on the body.


Paper egg cartons are actually very versatile. With a little bit of paint, you can transform them into unique ornaments for your tree. If you don’t have a paperboard egg carton, a foam carton may also work even though they may be more difficult to paint. Make a snowman ornament by cutting our three egg cups in a row. Follow the instructions for the bottle cap ornament above to decorate.


To make small bells, carefully cut out several individual egg cups from your carton. Paint the outside and embellish with glitter or washi tape. Add a bell with crafting wire, then add some ribbon to hang it on your tree. Make tiny poinsettias by shaping the egg cup rim into petals, then painting the inside and outside red. Make a miniature Christmas tree by painting the cups green, then stacking them on top of each other. Hold them together with crafting wire and decorate.


• Choose things that last: Reusing items for as long as possible allows us to save money by avoiding purchasing replacements. And, depending on the product, save money by reducing the amount of energy we use at home. For example, changing to LED lights can save up to 95% of electricity usage during the holidays compared to traditional incandescent lights.


While I’m all for using real, natural Christmas trees, artificial trees are a good alternative if you’re concerned with the cost of purchasing a new tree every year. Ellipsos of Montreal found that “an artificial tree would have to be reused for more than 20 years to be greener than buying a fresh-cut tree annually.” If you already have or plan to purchase an artificial tree maintain it in good condition by cleaning it and storing it in its original box during the off-season.