What does it mean to have zero waste Christmas decorations? To me, it means reusing the same decorations passed down from generation to generation. Every Christmas, my family pulls out a big container full of ornaments and decorations from storage. We’ve reused these same decor items for years, meaning we don’t have to go out and buy new ones every year. Most of the Christmas decorations have a lot of sentimental value to us too: Ornaments I made when I was a little girl; beautiful glass ornaments my mother has from her grandmother; Decor given to us by cherished loved ones. All of it has a history, making decorating special to us (so there’s no way we’d throw it out). We don’t decorate around the house too much – largely we focus on our Christmas tree. We don’t use tinsel or adorn the tree in bows and ribbons. In fact, all we wrap it in is lights – lights we’ve kept in good shape for years. All other decorations pretty much live in our living room and dining room, but they’re nothing over the top. Maybe a statue of Santa, a plushie of Rudolf, or a snow globe here and there. What truly matters to us is the warmth in our home. Anyone who steps foot into our apartment can feel it: The love we have for each other and the good will we bare. And isn’t that what this season is all about? Spreading joy and good will to all?
If you don’t have any decorations you can reuse from previous years (maybe you just moved and are starting fresh, or new to this whole Christmas thing), that’s perfectly fine too. There are plenty of zero waste Christmas decorations to choose from. And honestly, when I get my own place, I want to create some of these zero waste decorations too. Ready to get started? Lets dive right in.
Why should I use zero waste Christmas decorations?
On a normal basis, the average American produces about 4.4 pounds of trash per day (which is a lot in and of itself). But on the holidays, it’s even worse.
Americans produce 25 percent more waste in the months between Thanksgiving and New Years. This extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage (or about 1 million extra tons per week)! A shiver shot down my spine just writing that.
I’m sure most of the waste comes from gift wrapping and food waste, but decorations are to blame as well. After all, we live in a linear economy where items aren’t designed to last, but designed for landfill. This promotes further spending.
Support a more circular economy, by having a zero waste Christmas instead. This post will tackle decorations, but there are plenty of other ways to have a zero waste holiday (like baking zero waste Christmas cookies, giving zero waste gifts, using sustainable gift wrapping alternatives, etc.).
What are some zero waste Christmas decorations I can make?
- Dried fruit: This is always so nice and it smells great. A lot of people love drying out citrus fruits, but you can also try drying out apples. Use twine to hang them up as ornaments on your tree (also makes cute gift tags).
- Popcorn / cranberry garland: This classic DIY is not to be scoffed at. A popcorn or cranberry garland is so nice: You can even mix the two and create a unique pattern all your own! All you have to do is lay out the popcorn and cranberries in the pattern you’d like to string them in, then push the needle through the first piece of popcorn and wrap it around and tie a loose but secure knot. Then, you can continue to thread through your pieces in the pattern you’ve chosen. At the end of the garland, thread it through again and then tie the string back around and into a double knot as you did the first. It’ll last the whole season, but it’s completely compostable when Christmas is over. Better yet, if you have a backyard, you can wrap it around one of the trees and let the birds and squirrels have it! That way it won’t go to waste.
- Use pine cones or twigs for ornaments: When you go outside this time of year, there’s a lot of pine cones on the ground. Why not collect some and hang them on your tree using twine? You can also make some beautiful, rustic twig ornaments if you’re feeling crafty.
- Crocheted ornaments: These are so cute and adorable. At a vintage store, a woman who was so impressed I was buying lace to use as gift wrap gave me a free vintage ornament last year. I gifted it to my mom because it reminded her of her grandmother, who loved to sew and craft things like that. Here’s how to make crocheted star patterns.
- Cinnamon applesauce ornaments: Such a cute idea and it also sounds super simple too. You only need a few ingredients to make these cinnamon applesauce ornaments (can you guess what they are?). Great to make with kids!
- Reuse old ornaments: You can never go wrong with just reusing what you have. It certainly keeps items out of the landfill! Plus, if you treat old ornaments with care, they can last a very long time. My mom has glass ornaments that were passed down to her from her grandmother. We hang them up every year on the tree and it’s one of my favorite activities because they’re beautiful. This includes Christmas lights: Use what you already have on hand (or, buy some minimal plastic LED lights).
- Tree skirts: We’ve been using the same tree skirt for years. I suggest you do the same, or perhaps ask a family member if they have one you could use before buying new. You could always just skip it, or make your own tree skirt, if you’re feeling creative. Just be sure to stick with something that won’t produce too much waste to make (perhaps utilizing old fabrics you have on hand?).
- Wreaths made from real pine: Nothing beats a nice, beautiful Christmas wreath. If you have an artificial one you purchased a year or so ago, continue to use that one. If not, I totally recommend making your own wreath from real pine. Not only will it smell nice, but it’d be a fun little project! You can hang it on your door proudly. If you have a real tree in your home, use some of its fallen branches to make the wreath, or forage for some pine around your neighborhood. Here’s how to make a fresh greenery wreath you’ll be proud of. You can also make small, cute little rosemary wreaths that make the perfect little accent pieces for gift tags or just found around the house. They make great place cards too, just in time for Christmas dinner.
- Tree trimmings: If you have any clippings from your real tree – don’t throw them away! You can put them in jars and spread them around the home to decorate. They also will produce a nice scent. You can use them to create a nice centerpiece: Just place a pillar candle (in a protective glass jar) in the center of some tree trimmings. You can also add some small pine cone or acorns to make it more decorative and festive.
- Candles: Candles always make a home feel warm and fuzzy. You can’t go wrong setting up some beeswax candles or soy candles around the home this time of year. Just remember to avoid candles with artificial fragrance in them (so bad for your health).
- Christmas stockings: I’ve had the same Christmas stocking (with Mickey Mouse on the front) since I was a little girl. I highly advise you keep using the one you already have. However, if you’d like to start fresh, perhaps make your own DIY Christmas stockings this year? Just make sure you opt for natural fibers if possible. Also, skip the glitter (it’s bad for the environment).
- Plants: A small potted tree would make an adorable decoration! Or maybe some poinsettias? Adding a little greenery to your abode would never hurt. Plus, if you have a yard, you can transfer the potted plant over after the season is over.
- Vintage: Hit up your local vintage store – you might be surprised at what you find! Maybe you’ll find a beautiful candle holder that would bring so much life to your centerpiece or a lovely Christmas bowl you can put candy or baked treats in. There are tons of beautiful zero waste Christmas decorations you can find there – maybe even some gift ideas too. So why not give it a go?
- Old decorations: When in doubt, reuse old decorations you already have. We have a slew of decorations we reuse year after year in storage. My mom loves her Christmas statues (think Santa, angels and snowmen) and snow globes. Use what you got!
How are you decorating your home this year? What do your zero waste Christmas decorations look like?