Gathering the best ideas to help you DIY this year’s zero waste Christmas decorations? Great call! Whether you’re into Christmas ornaments made with natural materials or easy, plastic-free Christmas decorations with leftover textiles, I can almost guarantee you’ll not only have fun making them, but you’ll also want to reuse them for many holiday seasons to come.
By the way, this guide is obviously for the DIY-ers out there… If you prefer to just buy already-made ornaments made out of non-toxic and natural materials, check out this guide!
Table of Contents
- Best Plastic-Free, Zero Waste, & DIY Christmas Tree Decorations
- Why Go for Plastic-Free Christmas Decor?
- How Do You Do a Zero Waste Christmas?
- How Do You Make Natural Christmas Decorations Yourself?
- Best Plastic-Free Ideas for Zero Waste Christmas Decorations in 2023
- 1. DIY Ornaments from Recycled Materials
- 2. Zero-Waste Nature-Inspired Wreaths
- 3. Upcycled Centerpieces Using Repurposed Jars
- 4. Compostable Garland
- 5. DIY Cloth Napkins
- 6. DIY Paper Snowflakes
- 7. Recycled Card Ornaments
- 8. Zero-Waste Cloth Gift Wrapping
- 9. Pinecone Place Card Holders
- 10. Upcycled Sweater Pillow Covers
- 11. Fabric Scrap Tree Skirt
- Wrapping Up: 13 DIY Ideas For Natural Christmas Tree Decorations
Best Plastic-Free, Zero Waste, & DIY Christmas Tree Decorations
The holiday season is practically here already, and it’s time to deck the halls with festive cheer!
But why not do it in the most eco-friendly way possible?
It’s estimated that about 500 tonnes of Christmas twinkle lights are thrown away each year! It’s also said that the UK alone generates the weight of 3.3 million emperor penguins in plastic waste each Christmas.
In the US, an additional five million tons of waste is generated over Christmas. The biggest offenders? Wrapping paper, ornaments, unwanted gifts, and shopping bags. Most of us know based on our own personal experience with the holiday season just how wasteful it can be.
But with more people seeking to reduce waste and environmental toxins, I’ve rounded up some tips to help you decorate your home with minimal waste and maximum holiday spirit. ‘Tis the season to reduce, reuse, recycle, and be eco-jolly!
My list of zero waste and natural Christmas decorations below includes everything from Christmas ornaments made with recycled materials, to nature-inspired wreaths, to DIY cloth napkins to use at your sustainable Christmas dinner. My plastic-free Christmas decor suggestions below can rival their store-bought counterparts, too.
Why Go for Plastic-Free Christmas Decor?
Plastic-free Christmas decorations are holiday ornaments, trimmings, and decor that are made without the use of plastic or plastic-based materials. These decorations prioritize sustainable and eco-friendly materials, promoting a more environmentally conscious celebration.
Think wooden and fabric ornaments, paper decorations, natural wreaths, and more Christmas ornaments made with natural materials.
How Do You Do a Zero Waste Christmas?
Achieving a zero waste Christmas (or, more realistically perhaps, a low-waste one) involves conscious planning and thoughtful choices to minimize waste throughout the holiday season.
To begin, prioritize experiences over material gifts. Consider gifting experiences, like cooking a special meal, organizing a game night, or even just going on a nature hike with loved ones, creating lasting memories instead of accumulating physical items.
Next, opt for digital invitations or recycled paper for holiday gatherings to reduce paper waste.
When it comes to decorating, choose reusable, plastic-free Christmas decorations made from natural or upcycled materials. Create DIY decor like fabric garlands, dried fruit ornaments, or wreaths made out of pine cones you find in your yard!
If using a Christmas tree, consider a potted tree that can be replanted after the holidays.
When wrapping gifts, get creative with cloth wraps, scarves, or old newspapers that can be reused or recycled. Encourage your recipients to do the same. If giving physical gifts, opt for items that are long-lasting, useful, and sustainably sourced. Support local artisans or shop secondhand for unique and eco-friendly gifts.
For the holiday feast, plan your meals to reduce food waste. Use leftovers efficiently and compost food scraps. Consider using reusable tableware instead of disposable items. When it’s time to exchange gifts, save and reuse wrapping materials for future use.
How Do You Make Natural Christmas Decorations Yourself?
Transforming your home into a festive wonderland using natural materials is a delightful and eco-conscious way to celebrate the holiday season. Begin by venturing outdoors to gather a variety of items like pine cones, evergreen branches, leaves, and dried flowers.
These will be the foundation of your natural decor. Pine cones can be used as natural ornaments, table accents, or even in wreaths. Twigs and branches can be fashioned into wreaths, garlands, or rustic centerpieces. Dried leaves and flowers can be used to create charming arrangements or embellishments.
Additionally, consider incorporating elements like cinnamon sticks, citrus slices, and fresh cranberries for both their aesthetics and delightful scents. Cinnamon sticks can be tied together with twine to make fragrant bundles or added to wreaths. Citrus slices can be dehydrated to create lovely ornaments or garlands. Fresh cranberries can be threaded onto strings to make vibrant garlands or used as accents in wreaths.
To tie it all together, natural twine, jute, or ribbons made from cotton or burlap can be used to hang ornaments, wrap gifts, or weave through wreaths.
As you craft your natural Christmas decorations, let your creativity guide you. Allow the beauty and simplicity of nature to shine through and your zero waste Christmas decorations will radiate a warm, organic charm!
Best Plastic-Free Ideas for Zero Waste Christmas Decorations in 2023
Alright, now let’s get to it! Here are my suggestions for (relatively) easy, DIY natural Christmas decor for the 2023 holidays:
1. DIY Ornaments from Recycled Materials
Gather up those old magazines, newspapers, scrap fabric, or even old books! It’s time to create your own zero waste Christmas decorations and give used materials a new life. Crafting ornaments from recycled materials not only reduces waste but also allows you to add a personal touch to your tree.
You can make them as easy or as fancy as you want. Simply cut them into various shapes and sizes, add a ribbon or string, and voila! You’ve got unique, upcycled ornaments that are kind to the environment and your wallet.
Here are some tutorials you may find helpful:
- 4 ways to make origami ornaments out of old books
- 6 Christmas ornaments made from sheet music
- DIY letter ornaments using fabric scraps
- Scrap fabric twine ornaments
2. Zero-Waste Nature-Inspired Wreaths
Utilizing nature’s gifts for wreath-making is a sustainable choice that makes your plastic-free Christmas decor even more beautiful! It celebrates the beauty of the outdoors, brings a touch of the natural world into your home, and reduces the need for synthetic materials often used in traditional wreaths.
Simply take a stroll in your backyard or a nearby park to collect pine branches, a pine cone or two, and whatever other natural elements you might be inspired by. With a little creativity and some twine, you can craft a stunning wreath that’s beautiful and biodegradable.
- Pine cones
- A circular base (wire or cardboard)
- Hot glue
- Choose your base. You can either cut a circle out of a large cardboard box or fashion a wire clothes hanger into a circle.
- Arrange the twigs in a circular pattern and secure them to the base using hot glue and/or twine.
- Attach pine cones, leaves, and berries using hot glue, creating a festive arrangement.
- Hang your nature-inspired wreath on the door or wall for a charming holiday touch.
(Note: The hot glue is not biodegradable, so you will have to disassemble it if you want to throw this wreath in the compost when you’re finished with it.)
Here’s a tutorial from A Pretty Fix:
3. Upcycled Centerpieces Using Repurposed Jars
This one is super easy.
Creating centerpieces from upcycled jars is a clever way to repurpose old containers and showcase nature’s beauty while minimizing the need for new, non-biodegradable materials.
- Old jars (either mason jars or cleaned food jars, like peanut butter, salsa, etc.)
- Paint (optional)
- Foraged materials of your choice (pine cones, dried flowers, dried fruit, etc.)
- Whatever else you want to put in your jars (like holiday candies, cranberries, rosemary, small sphere ornaments, or Epsom salt for “snow”)
- Ribbon or twine
- Paint a portion of the jar if you choose to.
- Fill the jars with whatever you want.
- Put the lids on and tie some twine or ribbon around the top.
- Arrange the jars in the center of your table for a beautiful and eco-friendly centerpiece.
4. Compostable Garland
Your classic popcorn garland is another great choice for natural Christmas decor that can be composted after the holiday season.
- Fresh, popcorn (unbuttered and unsalted)
- Fresh Cranberries (optional)
- Dried orange slices (optional)
- Large needle
- Pop enough popcorn to make the desired length of your garland.
- Wash the cranberries (if using) and allow them to dry.
- If you want to use dried orange slices, you can make your own by slicing oranges thinly and baking them at 200°F (93°C) for about 2-3 hours or until they are completely dry.
- Clear a large, flat surface like a table or countertop.
- Lay out your popcorn, cranberries, and dried orange slices in separate bowls.
- Cut a length of thread as long as you want your garland to be, plus a little extra for tying off.
- Thread the needle and begin stringing by piercing through a piece of popcorn, then a cranberry, then an orange slice, and repeat, creating a pattern as you prefer.
- Continue stringing until you reach the desired length of your garland.
- Once you have reached the desired length, tie off the ends of the thread securely to avoid any pieces falling off.
- Drape the garland across your Christmas tree, mantle, or any other area you’d like to decorate.
- Adjust the spacing of the popcorn, cranberries, and orange slices as needed for a balanced and beautiful look.
- Be sure the garland is in a cool, dry place to prevent it from attracting pests or molding.
(Note: Using thread made of a natural material like cotton will allow you to throw your whole garland in your home compost when you’re finished with it. But if you use something synthetic like dental floss or fishing line, you can just cut the end of the garland, slide the food off the end, compost that, and then throw the string in the trash.)
5. DIY Cloth Napkins
Crafting reusable cloth napkins for your holiday dinner encourages sustainability by reducing the use of disposable paper napkins. (Plus, they can of course be washed and used for many future celebrations, too!)
- Scrap fabric or old pillowcases
- Sewing machine (or a needle and thread for hand-sewing)
- Cut the fabric into square or rectangular shapes. I suggest 18×18 inches, but you can make them whatever size you want. You can even cut out different sizes for adults’ and kids’ napkins.
- Fold down the edges about 1/2 inch and use an iron to hold the crease in place. (See the video above for an example.)
- Hem the edges by folding them over and sewing to prevent fraying.
Simple as that!
6. DIY Paper Snowflakes
Creating plastic-free Christmas decorations with DIY snowflakes from old magazines (or whatever paper you have around the house!) is a fantastic way to repurpose and reuse materials while adding a touch of winter magic to your home. Cut out intricate snowflake patterns from old magazines or unwanted paper. Hang them by the window for a beautiful and eco-friendly snowy scene.
- Any kind of paper (old magazines, computer paper, etc.)
- Hole punch
- Ribbon or string
- Cut out pages from old magazines and fold them into small squares.
- Cut various patterns into the folded squares to create unique snowflake shapes. (See the video below for a tutorial in action.)
- Add a hole at the top and thread a ribbon or string for hanging.
7. Recycled Card Ornaments
Here’s another idea: make your own ornaments out of recycled holiday cards from last year! It allows you to cherish memories while reducing paper waste, making each ornament a unique reminder of the holidays past. Plus, it’s extremely easy.
- Old holiday cards
- Hole punch
- Ribbon or string
- Cut out festive shapes (stars, trees, bells) from the old holiday cards.
- Add a hole at the top of each shape using a hole punch.
- Thread a ribbon or string through the hole and tie a knot at the end for hanging.
*If you didn’t keep last year’s cards, then just hang onto your cards this year and keep this idea in mind for next year’s eco-friendly Christmas decorations!
8. Zero-Waste Cloth Gift Wrapping
Instead of traditional, single-use wrapping paper that often ends up in the bin, consider using cloth or scarves to wrap your gifts. The cloth can be reused for many future gift-giving occasions (or fashion accessories!), minimizing the demand for single-use wrapping paper and reducing waste. It’s reusable and adds an extra layer of thoughtfulness to your presents.
It’s pretty straightforward, but here’s how to do it:
- Cloth or scarves
- Reusable ribbon or twine
- Simply place your gift in the center of the cloth.
- Gather the cloth around the gift and tie it securely with a reusable ribbon or twine. (You basically wrap it the same way you would with regular wrapping paper, but you just use a knot or ribbon instead of tape to hold it together. See the video below for a Furoshiki tutorial.)
- Add a small decorative ornament or a sprig of greenery for an extra festive touch.
9. Pinecone Place Card Holders
Pinecone place card holders are a charming and rustic addition to your holiday table. These Pinterest-worthy zero waste Christmas decorations are eco-friendly, easy to make, and add a personal touch to your dining decor while utilizing natural elements. It’s an especially good idea if you’re planning on hosting your own family dinner!
- Pine cones
- Small cards or paper
- Glue (optional)
- Paint (optional)
- Collect pine cones from your yard or a park, ensuring they are relatively clean and dry.
- If you want to add an extra layer of decoration, you can paint the tips of the pine cones with a color of your choice (as shown in the tutorial above).
- Cut small cards or paper into rectangles.
- Either glue the cards onto the pine cones or you can simply fold them in half to create mini place cards that will stand up on their own when you wedge them in between the little spikes.
10. Upcycled Sweater Pillow Covers
Do you have old Christmas sweaters, sweatshirts, or tablecloths lying around collecting dust? It’s time to give them a brand-new life! Transforming old sweaters into pillow covers can add a warm texture to your decor, and of course, reduce textile waste.
You can, of course, use holiday-specific fabrics (or an ugly Christmas sweater maybe?), but even anything green, red, or white will help give your home some more holiday vibes.
- Old sweaters or other fabrics
- Pillow inserts or stuffing material (if you need to buy natural/organic filling, see our bean bag guide for options)
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine (or needle and thread for sewing by hand)
- Cut the sweater into square or rectangular shapes to fit your pillow inserts.
- Sew the edges to create pillow covers, leaving one side open for inserting the pillow or stuffing.
See this helpful tutorial for more details:
11. Fabric Scrap Tree Skirt
Here’s another idea for Christmas decor using any old fabric you have lying around: make a tree skirt! It adds a personalized touch to your holiday decor and beautifully complements your Christmas tree.
- Fabric scraps
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine (or needle and thread if sewing by hand)
- Cut fabric scraps into strips and sew them together to create a long, continuous strip.
- Coil the strip into a spiral shape to form the tree skirt, sewing it in place as you go.
Wrapping Up: 13 DIY Ideas For Natural Christmas Tree Decorations
Embrace the joyful spirit of the season with a green twist! From repurposed ornaments to upcycled wreaths, I’ve shown that reducing waste can be as delightful as opening presents on Christmas morning with these nature-inspired Christmas decorations.
So, gather your supplies, put your crafter hat on, and have some fun making some plastic-free Christmas decor this season!