[Updated 11/7/22]   Making recycled Christmas decorations at home is a fantastic opportunity to slow down and savor the holiday season.
 
It gives us a chance to spend some quality time with our family and friends, not to mention avoiding the ever-increasing consumerist trappings of the holiday season.

Using waste materials for our homemade holiday crafts is even better.

It means that we aren’t producing more garbage in the course of our celebration, nor are we spending money to buy Christmas decorations we could easily make ourselves. But still, we’re fully embracing the festive spirit of the season.

When we give our DIY Christmas crafts as gifts, it means that much more, because– to paraphrase Dr. Seuss– it comes from our hearts and minds rather than some big box store.

From an environmental perspective, the following homemade Christmas décor ideas help us demonstrate our respect for the planet.

Rather than treating its resources as if they’re disposable, we’re upcycling them to create something perfectly in the spirit of the season.

And if we’re being honest, isn’t it just as important that the process of making these upcycled Christmas decorations is just plain fun, and fills our holidays with joy?

READ MORE: 90 Christmas Traditions Around the World

DIY Recycled Christmas Decorations Guide

  1. Sheet Music Angels
  2. Christmas Paper Chains
  3. Holiday Signs
  4. Suspended Snowflakes
  5. Memory Wreath
  6. DIY Nativity Scene
  7. Wine Bottle Crafts for Christmas
  8. Natural DIY Christmas Decor
  9. DIY Christmas Crafts: Mason Jars
  10. DIY Christmas Collage
  11. Christmas Bottle Cap Pins
  12. DIY Advent Calendar Ideas
  13. Snowman Craft from Tin Cans
  14. Santas made from Toilet Paper Rolls
  15. DIY Christmas Gift Tags
  16. Christmas Postcards
  17. Sock Crafts for Christmas
  18. Homemade Snow Globes
  19. Family Christmas Games
  20. Custom Made Wrapping Paper
  21. Christmas Wine Cork Crafts
  22. Recycled CD Craft Ideas
  23. Recycled Paper Beads for Christmas
  24. Rustic Christmas Stockings from Sweaters
  25. Tomato Cage Christmas Tree
  26. DIY Christmas Garland Ideas
  27. Homemade Gingerbread Playdough Men
  28. Christmas Crafts from Old Games
  29. DIY Christmas Cracker
  30. DIY Gingerbread House
  31. Tin Can Christmas Lanterns
  32. Snowman Lightbulb Ornament
  33. Christmas Clothespin Crafts
  34. 3D Cardboard Christmas Trees
  35. DIY Christmas Card Wreath
  36. Recycled Paint Brush Santa
  37. Upcycled Wood Snowman
  38. Upcycled K-Cup Snowman Hat Ornaments
  39. Stick Christmas Tree
  40. Recycled Plastic Spoon Christmas Tree
Recycled Christmas cookie cutter crafts
Cookie Cutter Tree Ornaments via Pixabay

Recycled Christmas Decorations

No other holiday decoration is as common and beloved around the world as the Christmas tree. And no Christmas tree is complete without ornaments.

The most treasured ornaments are usually those that come with personal memories attached.

Whether it’s a photo of baby’s first Christmas, a casting mold someone made in kindergarten, or a project from high school art class, these snapshots in time often become family heirlooms.

These time-honored traditions don’t have to stop just because the kids have grown up. Making DIY Christmas ornaments together as a family is fun, free, and full of home grown holiday cheer.

There are a host of things that most of us already have around the house that you can use to make recycled Christmas ornaments.

Scraps of yarn or thread come in handy. Old lids from jars or bottles can be painted and transformed into ornaments.

Cookie cutters, puzzle pieces, and board game parts that probably haven’t seen the light of day in years can all make cool Christmas ornaments. Even old light bulbs can be quickly converted into glass baubles.

READ MORE: 30 Symbols of Christmas: The History & Meaning of Traditional Christmas Decorations

Recycled Christmas Tree Crafts -angel made from sheet music
Angel made from sheet music via Pixabay

1. How To Make Sheet Music Angels

There are many different ways to make Sheet Music Angels, which you can hang on your tree or give as homemade Christmas gifts to your friends and family.

There are tons of instructional how-to videos available to watch for free on YouTube, but this is one of the easiest methods we’ve found.

  • Take one piece of sheet music (you get bonus points if it’s for a traditional Christmas song!) and fold it back and forth in accordion-like pleats.
  • Hold the folded sheet music on its side while tying a thin, 12-inch piece of string around it approximately two-thirds of the way down.
  • On the larger portion of the sheet music, use scissors to cut out small diamonds or other shapes, like you would when making a cut paper snowflake.
  • Cut a wedge in the edge of the sheet music to make a decorative fringe-like edge for your angel’s dress.
  • Take the shorter portion of the sheet music and cut it down the middle to make two wings.
  • Pull the ends of the string through the middle of the wings. Thread it through a bead for the head and a button for the halo, then make a knot to secure it.
  • Use any remaining string to make a loop so that you can hang your angel on a Christmas Tree… or anywhere that needs a little holiday magic!

READ MORE: 25 Fun Christmas Eve Traditions Around the World

Create Christmas paper chains made out of recycled materials to decorate
Christmas Paper Chains By Lance Cpl. Courtney White  via Wikimedia Commons

2. Christmas Paper Chains

Some craft projects are easy to do. The materials are easy to come by. And when they’re done to a silly extent, somehow they come off looking amazing.

Paper chains are among the simplest recycled Christmas décor you can make at home.

One paper chain looks a bit sad and anemic. But when a dozen long, colorful chains are strung around a room, it somehow magically transforms the space into a holiday wonderland.

Paper chains can be made from all sorts of recycled stuff. Materials we’ve used in the past include newspapers, old coloring books, comics, magazines, junk mail, paper bags, spent wrapping paper, old maps and so on.

Looking to entertain children? Have them color pictures on the paper before the chains are linked together. This is a great family activity, and it’s a Christmas craft project that’s hard to mess up.

READ MORE: 15 Recycled Christmas Cards Crafts for Kids

Recycled wood becomes a Holiday Sign full of Christmas Cheer
Christmas Cheer, photo by Emma Gallagher

3. Holiday Signs

For those who don’t mind doing a little carpentry (or who have become hip to the DIY pallet projects scene), scrap wood can fuel creative ideas for perfect DIY Christmas decorations.

Pallet planks are the perfect size for your source materials. But old scraps of plywood, one-by-fours, poster board, or even cardboard can also work well.

Using actual wood makes the decoration look a bit classier, but kids could work on cardboard to decorate their own rooms.

The process is simple. You take a scrap of wood (varying the sizes has a nice effect), sand it, and paint it with holiday sayings or lyrics from your favorite Christmas carols.

If lettering isn’t your specialty, try simple pictures, such as a tree, a gift, or a candy cane. Otherwise, the wood can simply be Christmas colors: red and green stripes, solid red or green or white, or an abstract blend.

Dot them around the house or stake them in the yard for a splash of holiday cheer.

READ MORE: 40 Fascinating Christmas Traditions in Mexico

Reuse scrap paper and make Christmas Snowflakes (Leonaora (Ellie) Enking)
Snowflakes, courtesy Leonaora (Ellie) Enking via Flickr

4. Suspended Paper Snowflakes

The traditional vision of a snowy white Christmas still feels as heartwarming as ever.

But with the world gradually getting increasingly warmer due to climate change, these days those snowy winter wonderland days are in increasingly short supply.

Making paper Christmas decorations is a wonderful pastime many of us may remember from grade school (or the modern holiday classic about Buddy the Elf).

As with paper chains, when a dozen or more snowflakes are hanging down from the ceiling, they look amazing!

Even in an increasingly paperless world, many of us find ourselves knee deep in old paper. There are flyers, bills, newspapers, magazines, junk mail, and any number of other ways paper can worm its way into our trash heap.

So instead, why not recycle your unwanted paper and use it to make snowflakes? Check out this link for instructions on how to make awesome 3-D snowflakes, but try using homemade glue instead of tape.

READ MORE: 

 Recycled Christmas Wreath becomes a Toy Memory Wreath (tiffany terry)
Toys Wreath, courtesy Tiffany Terry via Flickr

5. Memory Wreath

In the world of upcycling, any DIY craft project that can take lots of small things and turn them into one striking item is a project worth doing.

When it comes to recycled Christmas decorations, making holiday wreaths made from repurposed materials is easy, and the results can be amazing.

These wreaths can transform a lifetime of memories into  joyous holiday décor you can hang on the door.

These are the best kinds of homemade Christmas decorations, because the only limit is your imagination.

Old toys, knickknacks, ornaments, puzzle pieces, board game pieces, cookie cutters, and all manner of Christmas-themed keepsakes can be nestled together in the form of a wreath.

By attaching all of your upcycled trinkets to a themed memory wreath, you’ll be creating something new that can be proudly displayed and appreciated in an entirely different way.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Spend Christmas in the USA

Christmas Arts Crafts Recycled - Nativity Scene
Nativity Scene, photo by David Flores courtesy Flickr via CC 2.0

6. DIY Nativity Scene

When most people think about making Christmas decorations, nativity scenes probably aren’t the first craft project that comes to mind.

But making a nativity scene, from the stable and the animals to little baby Jesus, can lead to a series of fun DIY Christmas decoration projects.

Nativity scenes start with the stable, which is as easy as finding a box you can decorate.

With Christmas coming up, boxes will likely be arriving in the mail regularly, so the source material should be an easy find. With some craft materials, twigs, and dried grass clippings, this part is easy to make.

Next, it’s a matter of creating Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the Wise Men, and whoever/whatever else you’d like the scene to include. These figurines can be made from toilet rolls, match boxes, simple cardboard cutouts or even wine corks.

Some people like to use army men, plastic weird animals, wind-up toys, or even LEGO figures. It’s your holiday, so have fun with it!

Making a nativity scene as a recycled Christmas decoration has the added benefit of being a fun way for kids to be reminder that the holiday season isn’t only about wish lists and candy canes.

READ MORE: Countries That Do Not Celebrate Christmas

Wine Bottle Crafts for Christmas
Wine bottle filled with colorful beads and Christmas lights By Abbys1 CC BY-SA 4.0

7. Wine Bottle Crafts for Christmas

Before we go off to our holiday parties and other events, before we sit down for our dinners and deserts, why not make a recycled Christmas decoration to serve as a centerpiece for the feast?

With friends and/or family coming to visit, most of us will undoubtedly serve (and/or drink) a few glasses of wine to add extra holiday cheer. This will likely leave at least one empty wine bottle lying around.

Wine bottles are a versatile recycling material for making Christmas decorations. They stand tall and proud, already have an attractive shape, and can hold things inside like a vase. 

Here are some cool options for what to do with the wine bottle itself:

  1. Paint it. Red, green, white, silver  all seem fitting colors for the holiday. Or drink several bottles of wine and have one of each color!
  2. Put a letter (or word) on each bottle to spell out something. “Joy” and “Noel” are classics for this.
  3. If painting doesn’t suit you, try putting a string of lights into the empty bottle and making it into a cheerful lamp.
  4. Convert the bottles into a holiday character by painting them a solid color and embellishing that with a belt (Santa), buttons (snowman), or jingle bells (reindeer).

Once the bottle is decorated, it can also be adorned with things:

  1. Bare twigs interspersed with sprigs of red berries look yule-rific sticking out of the top.
  2. The bottles can be given little top hats, or beanies and a scarf.
  3. Branches of holly or conifer work well when careening out of the top.
  4. Use the wine bottle to hold a candle in your favorite color.

This kind of holiday centerpiece definitely ties the room together, and it’s the sort of detail that moves the table from feeling humdrum to full-on festive, even without the feast and roast beast.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

Natural Christmas Crafts & Decorations - Use pinecones and greenery
Pine Cones and Candles, courtesy annie via Flickr

8. Natural DIY Christmas Décor

As the chill of winter fills the air, a lot of natural debris tends to accumulate in the yard. There are a host of twigs, pine cones, and fallen branches and logs to contend with.

Don’t send this detritus to the dump! That’s crazy, because they’re good for both the garden and for making recycled Christmas décor. So are pine needles, and clippings from the rosemary bush.

Going natural with homemade Christmas decorations adds a simple rustic touch around the holidays.

Fasten twigs together in the shape of a tree, or bind them at the ends to make stars. Fill a wooden bowl with pine cones and tufts of pine needles. Take a cool looking piece of wood and make it into a yule log.

To create a wonderful smelling wreath, snip lengths of rosemary and fold them into a circle. These miniature wreaths can be hung around the house, or use them around candle votives for an extra touch of greenery. No waste, all natural!

READ MORE: Real Christmas Trees vs. Fake: Which is Better for the Environment?

10 CHRISTMAS ART AND CRAFT IDEAS FROM WASTE MATERIAL - Gift Jars (beccapie)
Gift Jars, photo by beccapie via Flickr

9. DIY Christmas Crafts: Mason Jars

Those of us who have learned to go plastic free, and instead buy stuff in glass jars, inevitably build up a collection beyond anything we’ll ever need.

But instead of sending them off to be recycled, why not consider turning them into homemade Christmas gifts everyone will love?

It may take a little more time than buying tiny junk gifts for acquaintances and co-workers. But old jars can easily be upcycled to make nice DIY Christmas crafts they’ll actually appreciate.

With a little decorative creativity, glass jars can be turned into awesome gift containers. They can be stuffed with food, such as Christmas cookies or hot drink mixes. 

They can be filled with holiday snacks—nuts and dried cranberries, chocolates, or other sweets—and put out on the coffee table for holiday guests to enjoy.

They can also be used as containers for sewing or shaving kits. They can be made into candle jars. Add a bit of ribbon and a homemade name tag, and an old jar quickly becomes a memorable Christmas gift with a personal touch.

Check out this great cookie mix recipe and other great mason jar Christmas gift ideas from The Frugal Girls

READ MORE: Lebkuchen Recipe (German Christmas Cookies aka German Gingerbread)

CHRISTMAS GIFTS -Mason Jars
Mason Jars make great holders for Christmas Gifts

Peppermint Crunch Dark Chocolate Cookie Mix in a Jar

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 box Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Cake Mix {15.25 oz.}
  • 1 bag Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips {10 oz.}
  • 1 quart size jar
  • Scrap ribbon, felt, left-over wrapping paper, glue, etc. for decoration

DIRECTIONS:

  • Pour cake mix package into your quart-sized wide mouth Mason Jar, and gently pat down the top.
  • Next add the Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips on top of the cake mix.
  • Before you put the lid on the jar, add some festive decoration like a circle cut from leftover holiday wrapping paper, then screw on the lid.
  • For an additional holiday touch, add some scrap ribbon to the middle of the jar and attach with glue dots.

BAKING INSTRUCTIONS:

Attach a label or add these instructions to the top of the jar’s lid.

  • Beat together 2 eggs and 1/2 cup Vegetable or Canola Oil in medium bowl.
  • Pour in entire contents of jar, and stir well with spoon.
  • Chill dough for 20 minutes in the refrigerator prior to baking.
  • Drop onto un-greased, non-stick cookie sheet in rounded balls.
  • Bake for approx. 8 – 9 minutes {or until done} at 350 degrees.

READ MORE: The History of Chocolate (& How Chocolate is Made)

10. DIY Christmas Collage

The images of Christmas time are a many-splendored thing, and seemingly no one decoration could contain them all. Or, so one would think.

A homemade Christmas collage is a magnificent way to combine many of the special symbols of the holiday season into one thematic work of art.

And when it comes to making DIY collages, most of us have a whole host of waste materials on hand we can use.

Check out the YouTube video above of a homemade Christmas Collage that recycles wrapping paper, gift tags, and magazine clippings to create artful Christmas memories your family will treasure forever.

Christmas cards are a fantastic sentiment to send to friends and family each year, but they usually just end up in the garbage. The same can be said for wrapping paper. There are also lots of Christmas ads in the newspaper and magazines.

All of these items can be upcycled for making festive DIY Christmas collages. And these collages can be more than just something to hang. Consider covering the table with one, or even decorating an entire wall or door.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Environmental Charities & Animal Charities for Holiday Donations

Make Bottle Cap Pins this Christmas to add festive cheer to any outfit!

11. CHRISTMAS BOTTLE CAP PINS

When it comes to Christmas, sometimes even the smallest gifts can make the biggest splash. Pins (a.k.a. buttons) are a perfect case in point.

Wearing a simple festive pin on your lapel or sweater has the power to bring about a smile, spread the holiday spirit, and maybe even garner a compliment or two.

Homemade holiday pins are perfect to wear yourself or give as small gifts. They’re easy to create and can be made from all sorts of stuff.

With bottle cap pins, the possibilities for DIY Christmas decorations are endless. Making them only requires a safety pin and glue, and you can put the image on the outside or inside of the cap.

It can be as easy a gluing a photo of Santa (or a snowman, or a reindeer) from wrapping paper or a magazine ad. 

Old ornaments and Christmas decorations are another good source for inspiration, and Pinterest is littered with free-to-download images that you can use.

Artistic folks might like to paint their own seasonally appropriate images on the inside of a bottle cap. Since bottle caps can’t be recycled, you’re giving both your friends and the earth a great gift!

READ MORE:  The History & Names of Santa Claus Around The World

Recycled Christmas Decorations

How To Make A Bottle Cap Pin

ITEMS:

  • Bottle caps
  • Recycled Christmas images, cut to size of the cap
  • Large Safety pins
  • Hammer and a small nail (like one used for hanging pictures)
  • Glue or Mod Pod
  • Dimensional adhesive (to create a raised surface and lasting protection for your pin)

INSTRUCTIONS: 

  • Put a bottle cap on a piece of scrap wood (not your kitchen table!)
  • Position your nail on the inside of the bottle cap.
  • Hammer the nail through until you get a clean hole that a safety pin will fit through.
  • Repeat for a second hole on the other side, but don’t put the nail hole directly across from the first nail hole. Move the 2nd nail hole several millimeters closer, which will make it easier to thread your safety pin through.
  • Use glue or Mod Pod to add fun Christmas images.
  • Place your recycled Christmas image on your bottle cap, making sure it’s centered correctly between the two holes that you made in the top of your bottle cap.
  • After your caps have dried, thread your safety pin through the back.
  • If using dimensional adhesive, outline your holiday image with the adhesive first and then fill in the middle. If bubbles appear, you can use a lighter to burst them. Set your pins aside to dry.

READ MORE: 40 Ways to Celebrate New Year Traditions Around the World

Recycled Holiday Crafts - DIY Advent Calendar Ideas
DIY Advent Calendar Ideas, courtesy Tina D via Flickr

12. DIY ADVENT CALENDAR IDEAS

Advent calendars are a beloved holiday tradition in many homes, counting down to Christmas Day. But they’re typically a one-use item that just creates more waste.

Instead, why not make them at home, from garbage you already have on hand?

That way, the advent calendar can be themed however you like—whether it’s Santa Claus or Frozen or the Nativity—and filled with homemade treats and prizes.

For  some fun DIY Advent Calendar ideas check out these suggestions below:

  1. Recycled cardboard boxes
  2. Take-out containers
  3. Toilet paper rolls
  4. Reusable tea bags
  5. Glass jars
  6. Jar lids
  7. Paper grocery bags
  8. Scrap fabric bundles
  9. Mittens
  10. Shoe organizer
  11. Small flower pots
  12. Muffin tin

Decorate them with some holiday cheer using recycled wrapping paper, ribbon, etc. Then number the containers from one to 25.

Finally, fill your upcycled advent calendar with fun stuff like hand-written jokes, holiday treats, Bible scriptures, or whatever suits your fancy. It makes the whole project more personal.

READ MORE: The Best Christmas Light Displays in Georgia

Recycled Christmas Crafts
photo by Max Pixal via CC0

13. SNOWMAN CRAFTS FROM TIN CANS

The holiday season is filled with big-time food for big crowds of people. And that means there will probably be an abundance of tin cans around, of varying sizes.

With a little paint and some imagination, these cans can make cool Christmas decorations. One of our favorites is the tin can snowman.

It starts with three tin cans of different sizes and some white paint. Minimalists might stop there, but a lot more can be done to make your Frosty feel fancy.

Make a quick sojourn into the sewing kit and you might find be a few colorful buttons to make a face and coat.

A spare piece of ribbon from the present-wrapping stash could be turned into a scarf. A bit of felt or construction paper could make a carrot nose and a top hat.

These homemade Christmas decorations are a great project for the kids to do. Then they can set their recycled holiday décor out on display for grandma and grandpa to admire.

READ MORE: Atlanta Christmas Events: 50+ Things To Do for Christmas in Georgia

14. CHRISTMAS CRAFTS WITH TOILET PAPER ROLLS

Santas made from the insides of toilet paper rolls are one of the easiest Christmas decorations to make, possible for toddlers and entertaining enough for adults.

Plus, all the trimmings the kids will need in order to make a nice toilet roll Santa are already lying around the house.

The toilet roll is the perfect rotund, jolly shape necessary for making St. Nick’s body.

It’s just a matter of painting or drawing the red suit onto the toilet roll and creating a simple hat out of construction paper or some ribbon. Then you add a bit of fluffy cotton in the appropriate spots to form the beard, the hat, and the fur-lined coat.

But if you’re someone who always recycles your old toilet paper rolls, then don’t let the fun stop there. Toilet paper rolls are the ultimate medium for making Christmas decorations.

They can be used to construct dainty wreaths, festive utensil holders, and all sorts of fun Christmas characters.

If this article inspires your Christmas craft-making spirit, check out these 20 ideas for more Christmas crafts made out of toilet rolls.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe

Christmas Arts Crafts Recycled - Gift Tag
Gift Tags, photo by Lindsay courtesy Flickr via CC 2.0

15. DIY CHRISTMAS GIFT TAGS

The crux of making our Christmas memories more special is often in the little details that seem to go unnoticed at the time. One of those tidbits is the gift tag.

Sure, there are plenty of options to buy them cheaply at the store, but they’re also quite easy to make out of old cereal boxes.

This simple DIY Christmas craft is definitely not one that requires a lot of concentration or talent. Anyone who can work scissors, even rudimentarily, can cut a box into a handful of rectangles.

This is also a great way for reusing last year’s Christmas cards.

For parents who are really looking to keep their little elves busy around the holidays, the picture side of these homemade gift tags could be painted with solid colors, stripes, snowmen or whatever else comes to mind.

Adding a splash of artistic flair would only make the tags even more special for the recipient.

Rather than going out to buy bits of paper or cardboard to make gift tags, just use what’s already around. Then, afterwards, what’s left can go into the recycling bin.

READ MORE: 125+ Best Gifts for Travelers (& Every Travel Style)

Christmas Arts Crafts Recycled - Postcard
(Post)Card, photo by Mike Brand courtesy Flickr via CC 2.0

16. HOMEMADE CHRISTMAS POSTCARDS

My wife, Emma, is British. One thing I’ve learned over the last 15 years is that Brits just love exchanging cards, and especially at Christmas. Across the pond, it seems like everyone is displaying this year’s Christmas card collection.

The sentiment is fantastic. It’s a lovely thing to let someone know you’re thinking of them, and a card is but a simple holiday gesture for doing so.

The problem is that, at the end of it all, everyone is left with dozens of Christmas cards. That’s a lot of rubbish!

One interesting way to avoid tossing all those cards into the recycling bin is to turn them into next year’s Christmas postcards. Most of the time these cards have a front cover with a seasonal picture on it, but the back part of it is left blank.

To make it into a homemade card, simply cut off the picture portion and reuse the blank part to create your own Christmas postcard the following year.

This way to reduces waste and saves money, yet still gets the sentiment of good holiday cheer across.

READ MORE: NYC Christmas Window Displays (Free Walking Tour)

17. CHRISTMAS CRAFTS MADE FROM SOCKS

Getting new socks for Christmas is a tradition that dates back to a time when people actually had to make their own socks. It may not be the flashiest of gifts, but sometimes gifts are practical and perfect.

If this happens in your home, it’s likely that a lot of old socks are ready to be tossed right around Christmas time. But rather than throwing them away, old socks can be easily transformed into recycled Christmas décor.

The obvious and simplest example would be a sock snowman. That’s just a white sock stuffed with rice at the bottom (a little weight in the bottom helps to keep it upright), and then filled at the top with whatever is light, fluffy, and handy. Use white string to form it all into a couple of snowballs.

Of course, your snowmen can be much more creative than that. They can have little crocheted hats and scarves, buttons for eyes, and a tiny piece of carrot for the nose.

You can also use old socks of different colors to make craftier creatures such as penguins, reindeer, or even Santa himself.

Just a head’s up: Whatever you do, don’t throw old socks away. Spread the word that used clothing (even dirty old socks) can be recycled, just as we would bottles and cans. It’s important!

READ MORE: 15 Fun, Festive Ways to Celebrate Christmas in Helen GA

Christmas Arts Crafts Recycled - Snow Globe
Snow Globe, photo by amy gizienski

18. HOMEMADE SNOW GLOBES

Those with a backlog of jars and lids on hand have the basic materials for my favorite recycled Christmas decoration, the snow globe.

Snow globes are a surprisingly easy Christmas gift to make at home, and they can entertain some recipients for hours.

It starts with finding an empty jar with a lid, then some old Christmas tree ornaments to create your mini winter wonderland. Use a hot glue gun to affix the ornament(s) artfully to the lid, and then fill the jar with water, glitter, and just a bit of glycerin.

Once your homemade snow globe looks just the way you want it to, simply screw the lid back on and glue it to keep it shut permanently. Then turn it over and watch the snow swirl!

This is a perfect way to use up old ornaments or recycle Christmas decorations from the past. It breathes some new life into them, and makes a perfect homemade gift for the folks you love.

READ MORE: Going Green: 60 Simple Tips For Earth Day & Every Day

Christmas Arts Crafts Recycled - Games
Bingo, courtesy Nick Farnhill

19. FAMILY CHRISTMAS GAMES

With each passing Christmas, it seems like we find more and more reasons to tune into our tiny screens and out of the family scene. A surefire fix for that is to make a fun DIY Christmas game to play together.

Family Christmas games don’t have to be anything new. They just have to be themed appropriately.

A few crayons and some paper are all you need to make Christmas bingo cards. Rather than printing something off from the internet, have everyone draw their own bingo cards on cardboard boxes.

Use chestnuts or chocolate kisses to cover what’s been called.

Christmas bowling is another great game that’s easy to make at home. Old tin cans can be painted to depict Christmas characters such as Santa, Mrs. Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, elves, and so on. Then they can be set up like bowling pins.

Or, using those same painted cans, we make a pyramid. Then we ball up a sock to make a “snowball” and see who can knock them all down in one toss.

These DIY family Christmas games are simple, but sweet. And they provide the sort of homespun fun that  people will remember for years to come.

READ MORE: 40 Fun Facts about Thanksgiving Around the World

Christmas Arts Crafts Recycled - Wrapping Paper
Homemade Wrapping Paper, photo by erika g courtesy Flickr via CC 2.0

20. HOMEMADE WRAPPING PAPER

Wrapping paper is something that, for the most part, only moms really care about. Everyone else is usually just itching to rip that paper off and get to the present. Unfortunately, that used wrapping paper cannot be recycled.

However, we could swaddle our homemade Christmas gifts in homemade wrapping paper. Rather than buying fancy stuff, why not use out-of-date newspapers, recycled paper bags, or the plain brown paper that comes with Amazon shipments to wrap the presents?

You (and/or your children) can paint, stamp, or draw seasonally appropriate pictures all over the paper before the gift is wrapped. Who isn’t going to love that? In fact, the paper might just get more attention than the present you wrapped it with!

For the just-so people who are worried about appearances, a well-placed bow or ribbon can go a long way towards making a Christmas present wrapped in newspaper look classy.

READ MORE: 10 Great Places to Celebrate Christmas in Virginia

Wine cork crafts- reindeer made from recycled corks
Wine Cork Reindeer by Joe Ross via Flickr and CC 2.0

21. Christmas Wine Cork Crafts

As the holiday season progresses, many of us will have gone through several bottles of wine. With each cork popped, we get a crafty little morsel we can work with. Wine corks are great craft material for recycled Christmas decorations.

Corks are easy to transform into all sorts of things. They’ve been used to make cutting boards, pot rests, bulletin boards, bathmats, stamps and, of course, holiday decorations.

The easiest way to create wine cork Reindeer is to use two corks– one for the head and another for the body.

Then use two multi-pronged twigs to work as antlers, four single-pronged twigs to work as legs, one to be the neck, and another short one for the tail. Some folks also like to add a tuft of red at the nose or a jingle bell collar.

Other wine cork Christmas crafts include painting the cork like Santa, then adding colorful accoutrements— cotton buds, buttons, etc.— to complete the festive look.

Also, try gluing a big collection of corks together into three circles to make a snowman.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Celebrate Christmas in NC 

30 Recycled Christmas Decorations
Stack of Old CDs

22. Recycled CD Craft Ideas for Christmas

Many of us Gen X and Gen Y folks have steadfastly held on to our CDs and DVDs. We worked so hard to amass a collection, only to see technology breeze by us with on-demand movies, tv, and music.

It’s a difficult step to bid those discs goodbye once and for all.

However, when the time is right, they can be used for recycled Christmas décor. One easy way is to simply cut them up into festive shapes (oh, the agony!) and hang them as shimmery Christmas tree ornaments.

For those more inclined to get into a craft project, CD letter chains are easy-to-make Christmas decorations. Either paint the CDs or cover them with glued-on bits of leftover wrapping paper, and either paint or craft some letters to go on them.

Spell out seasonal words and phrases to hang on the wall, along banisters, beneath door jambs, or wherever else might need some sprucing up.

For those with massive collections, recycling CDS (and cases) is a thing, so please go that route if and when you do choose to throw them out.

READ MORE: 50+ Pieces of Advice I would Include in a Letter to My Younger Self

23. Recycled Paper Beads for Christmas

Physical magazines seem to still be hanging around, despite the fact that most publications these days are available via internet.

For some of us, the feel of an actual magazine or newspaper is just too alluring to give up in favor of comparatively tiny digital screens.

Luckily, we know how to make Christmas decorations out of paper, so those periodicals can get extra play.

Newspapers have a multitude of uses, such as starting that open fire for roasting chestnuts. But magazines, with their glossy pages, are a bit more troublesome.

That being said, magazines can be snipped to use the images or text to create collages, cards, and so on. Magazine pages also make really nice recycled paper beads. Here’s how:

  1. Choose a page with lots of the desired color (presumably red, white, and green).
  2. Cut the page into long isosceles triangles, with two sides that are the same.
  3. Roll the triangle, wide end first, on a toothpick or something similarly sized.
  4. Glue the last flap of paper to prevent the bead from unraveling.
  5. Once dry, string the beads together to make a festive necklace, or a beaded recycled Christmas garland.

These beads can be strung together to wind around a Christmas tree or hung over a figurine. A string of beads– particularly beads painted in appropriate colors– can become a first-rate recycled Christmas decoration.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Cultural Festivals Around the World

24. DIY Christmas Stockings From Sweaters

Everyone loves a good Christmas sweater competition. But let’s be honest, most of the time these sweaters are one-hit wonders, which means they’re getting tossed (whether in the trash or the Goodwill bin) with a lot of life left in them. 

Instead of throwing them out, they could be repurposed into awesome rustic Christmas stockings. For those not particularly skilled at sewing, fear not. This only requires rudimentary stitching, and very little of it at that.

Simply take an old sweater and press it flat on the table. With some paper or cardboard, create a template for the size and shape of stocking you’d like.

Cut around the template, making sure to get both sides of the sweater. Stitch around the edges with some ribbon or thread, but be sure to leave the top open.

Once the basic stocking shape is there, add some jingles, sparkles, lettering, or whatever extras make it feel right before hanging it on the mantle.

This is a cool Christmas decoration to make for loved ones, especially if the sweater has special memories!

READ MORE: The Top 15 Famous Festivals in the USA

DIY Tomato Cage Christmas Tree
DIY Tomato Cage Christmas Tree by Roger Mommaerts via flickr and CC 2.0

25. DIY Tomato Cage Christmas Tree

For those who love gardening, Christmas can be a trying time. After all, the weather isn’t really right at this time of year for getting out and growing tomatoes.

So why not learn how to make Christmas decorations from garden implements? The silver (bell) lining is that those tomato cages can still come in handy during the wintertime.

Nothing works quite so well as those conical tomato cages for holding our tomato plants proud and tall all summer. Then, in the winter, they can be turned the other way around—pointy end on top—to make outdoor Christmas tree displays!

With the large circle as a base on the ground, pin together the three spikes that normally go in the ground with a star or angel made from tie wire.

Then, assorted homemade ornaments can be hung from the wire cage. They look pretty cool, and they can turn the garden festive while times a-wasting.

READ MORE: An Intro to Permaculture Gardening

30 Recycled Christmas Decorations
Popcorn Garland

26. DIY Christmas Garland Ideas

Garland is perhaps one of the most overlooked but effective DIY Christmas decorations at our disposal. It’s literally strewn with festivity and, for those of us doing it ourselves with recycled or natural materials, options abound.

Some of the materials for making homemade garland– paper chains, painted CDs, handmade paper beads, paper snowflakes– have already been discussed.

But there are other options, too. Natural items like sprigs of holly, pinecones, and evergreen boughs provide a lovely Christmas feel. Most Christmas tree vendors will even give you their extra clippings for free!

Of course, stringing popcorn is a classic Christmas craft idea. We like to alternate ours with popcorn and cranberries, which look lovely even as they dry out during the holiday season. And if properly stored, they can last several years.

For recycled garlands using thin cardboard boxes (such as from cereal or pasta), crafty people might like to cut out various Christmas symbols—bells, trees, angels, snowflakes, candy canes, gifts, etc.—and fasten them together.

Old clothes pins can also be painted to look like Santas, snowmen, and various other Christmas characters, then clipped onto lines as normal.

READ MORE: 25 Biggest Forests in the World (for Your World Travel Bucket List)

30 Recycled Christmas Decorations
Gingerbread Men

27. Homemade Gingerbread Playdough Men

While not exactly recycled, it’s easy to make natural, compostable playdough from ingredients that most of us already have in the kitchen.

All it takes is a cup of flour, a cup of water, ¼ cup of salt, a tablespoon of cooking oil, and two teaspoons of cream of tartar. Adding a bit of cocoa powder or food coloring to this can make it a light brown hue.

Making playdough at home is a cinch. First, stir up all the ingredients in a pot and heat the mixture on medium until it forms a playdough-like solid. Then spread it out to cool and knead it a little when it’s mild enough to touch.

Now it’s playdough, and ready for all sorts of Christmas crafts. The playdough can be rolled out and cut into gingerbread men (assuming there’s a gingerbread man cookie cutter around).

For that matter, why not utilize whatever Christmas cookie cutters you have?

Obviously, this is a really fun project to do with kids. Once the shapes are made, perhaps decorated with gum drops or what-have-you, just leave them out to harden.

READ MORE: Best Coffee in the World (A Gourmet’s Guide to 30 Types of Coffee)

30 Recycled Christmas Decorations
Game Pieces

28. Christmas Crafts Made From Old Games

If your family home is like mine was, you undoubtedly have a trunk, closet, or attic full of forgotten board games and puzzles boxes with missing pieces.

The beauty of these things when you start Christmas crafting is that they provide an essence of play, which is the perfect feeling to harness for holiday décor and gifts.

Puzzle pieces can be painted red and white, then glued together in the shape of a candy cane. Old Scrabble letters can be linked together to spell out holiday-related words.

Lots of board games have little tidbits that can make cool ornaments for the tree, or fodder for garlands or wreaths, or figures for quirky Nativity scenes.

The key is to tap into your inner child and let the creativity flow. Better yet, for those with literal children in the house, let them have some fun! Heck, it might even result in a family night of board games, with no smartphones or iPads necessary.

After the games are over, the bits and pieces can later be transformed into homemade Xmas decorations.

READ MORE: 45 Pieces of Advice I Would Include in a Letter To My Younger Self

DIY Christmas Crackers
Christmas Crackers by Positive_Images from Pixabay

29. DIY Christmas Cracker

My wife Emma is from the United Kingdom, and Christmas is not Christmas in the UK if there isn’t a Christmas cracker.

For those unfamiliar, this is not some sort of appetizer though it is usually part of Christmas dinner and enjoyed before the actual feasting.

Christmas crackers look a bit like an enormous piece of candy, tubular and wrapped in paper like a Tootsie Roll. However, when pulled apart, they pop, and they’re filled with a few select items (none of which are actually edible).

They usually have a cheesy Christmas joke, a paper hat (more like a crown), and a trinket.

It’s easy to make your own DIY Christmas cracker at home with recycled toilet paper rolls and repurposed wrapping paper. The internet can supply a plethora of cheesy Christmas jokes. Paper hats can be made out of newspapers.

The trinkets can be something as simple as a small Christmas ornament or an old board game piece. The prizes generally seem like something you’d get from a Cracker Jack box.

Though it is possible to buy little inserts to make the bang when homemade Christmas crackers are pulled apart, Emma and I prefer to make funny noises with our mouths instead.

It provides some laughs, without creating unnecessary trash.

READ MORE: The Best Food Gifts from Around the World

30 Recycled Christmas Decorations
Gingerbread Houses

30. DIY Gingerbread House

Though it’s easy to go to the store and buy a kit to make gingerbread houses at home, skipping the steps seems to take a lot of the fun out of the tradition. Making a DIY Gingerbread house from scratch is much more fun.

Not only are they the ultimate homemade Christmas decoration, but they provide delicious aromas (and sneaky treats) in the process.

Many of the ingredients are things most people have around anyway, and it doesn’t create a bunch of extra packaging when made at home. The house itself could be composted if it isn’t eaten. And let us not forget that the whole process is fun, and fairly easy. Here’s how:

  1. Find some cardboard and cut out shapes for the house– two rectangular walls, two rectangular roof panels, and two sides that are squares with triangles atop them. Test the sizes by piecing together the cardboard house before baking the gingerbread.
  2. Here’s an easy recipe for structural gingerbread. It is edible, though not especially delicious. It’s a good idea to do this the day before making the house.
  3. Next is the mortar that holds the house together: royal icing. You’ll need a pound of confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup of pasteurized egg whites, and ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar. Mix them together for a few minutes, then cover the icing until it’s being applied to the house. It will dry out quickly.
  4. With the gingerbread pieces prepared and the royal icing ready, you can begin putting the house together. Build it on an adequately sized piece of cardboard.  A repurposed plastic bag with corner cut off can serve as an easy pastry bag for applying the icing.
  5. Decorate the exterior of the house with Christmas candies, like candy canes, gumdrops, jelly beans, peppermints, and so on. Just use royal icing to stick them on.

READ MORE: The 25 Most Unusual & Unique Hotels in the World

Tin Can Lantern
Tin Can Lantern, photo via Canva

31. Tin Can Christmas Lanterns

During the holiday season, when it feels like the cooking never really stops, you’ll probably find yourself with a bunch of leftover tin cans lying around. 

If you clean them up, there are a ton of different crafts you can upcycle them into, including tin can Christmas lanterns.

First, tear off any outside paper until the cans are bare, then paint them. Just make sure to use paint that’s safe for use with fire if you plan on putting a candle inside.

Next, decide what design you want the light to shine through and use a sharpie or pen to mark out the pattern. Then carefully poke holes through the dots, using either a hammer and nail or drill. 

If you want to hang your lanterns, make two holes on opposing sides of the top, then poke some sort of wire through them. 

Lastly, add either a votive candle or fairy lights and enjoy your festive lanterns!

READ MORE: What is an Eco Lodge? The Top 20 Eco Resorts & Eco Hotels in the World

Snowman
Image by Sachu Sanjayan, photo via Pixabay 

32. Snowman Lightbulb Ornament

If one of your lightbulbs burns out, don’t throw it away! It can easily be transformed into a cute snowman ornament for your Christmas tree.

Even after Santa has come and gone, you can keep these adorable little snowmen on display around the house until Spring rolls around.

The first step is to paint the entire bulb white. If you’re feeling fancy, you can even paint a layer of glue over the white and cover it in iridescent glitter.

Now it’s time to bring your snowman to life. Grab a black sharpie or paint pen and draw on two eyes, a smile, and buttons. If you have orange paint, you can even add a classic carrot-shaped nose!

After the paint has dried, cut out a strip of felt or scraps of fabric to glue on to for his scarf. You can also add mittens if you’d like.

Once your snowman looks just right, glue a piece of string or wire to the top and you’ve got yourself a homemade ornament!

READ MORE: The Best Gifts for Campers, Hikers & Nature Lovers

Christmas Snowflakes
Christmas Snowflakes, photo via Canva

33. Christmas Clothespin Crafts

If you have old clothespins lying around, there are endless crafts you can transform them into with just some paint, glue, and a little creativity.

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Paint a few clothespins white and glue them together in the shape of a snowflake. Then you can hang them around your home or on a Christmas tree for some winter wonderland décor.

Got some green paint? Paint three clothespins green and glue them together in a triangular shape to make a Christmas tree.

From there you can cut out yellow paper to make a star tree topper and add colorful ornaments as well. Or you could paint a couple more clothespins green and glue them onto a circular piece of cardboard to make a wreath.

You can also bring them to life by turning individual clothespins into reindeer, snowmen, nutcrackers, and Santas by painting them their respective colors and adding the individual features of each one.

READ MORE: Top 15 Female Wildlife Conservationists & Animal Rights Activists

Cardboard Christmas Tree
Cardboard Christmas Tree, photo via Canva

34. 3D Cardboard Christmas Trees

Since online shopping has dominated the Christmas gift-buying game in recent years, most of us are sure to have a cardboard box or two in the house when the holidays roll around.

Instead of trashing them, you might want to keep some around for a fun craft that’s easy for the whole family. 

Start by drawing a simple Christmas tree shape on your cardboard panel, however large you’d like your tree to be. For each 3D Christmas Tree, you’ll need to draw one full tree and two half trees.

Next, cut out the shapes and glue the pieces together, attaching the half trees to the each side of the full cardboard tree.

Now it’s time to decorate! You can paint the tree green or white (for a snow-covered look), then glue on craft materials for ornaments.

If you need some ideas, try buttons, pipe cleaners, glitter, pom poms, tinsel, sequins, craft gems, or stickers.

READ MORE: 10 Eco Lessons in Quotes from The Lorax (Dr Seuss’ Conservation Classic)

Paper Wreath
Paper wreath, photo via Canva

35. DIY Christmas Card Wreath

Christmas cards are such a special part of the holiday season, they can be hard to throw away. But there are better ways to savor the memories, rather than stuffing them into a drawer to never be seen again. 

When you use old cards to make this DIY Christmas wreath, you get a fun memory of making the DIY Christmas craft itself!

Start by gathering all the Christmas cards you want to use, and then get creative with it. You can cut out all different shapes for a more homemade look, or use a stencil to make each card look like holly leaves or any other holiday shape.

Then find some old cardboard and cut it into a circle, with the center cut out.

Glue all of the cards on, add a ribbon for hanging, and you’ve got yourself a sweet and sentimental wreath to display during the holiday season.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Caribbean Islands to Visit (If you Love Nature & Hate Crowds)

 

Recycled Paint Brush Santa
Recycled Paint Brush Santa, photo via Canva

36. Recycled Paint Brush Santa

Whether you’re interested in DIY Christmas crafts because you’re innately creative or due to a limited budget, chances are you’ve got some old paint brushes lying around.

Making a recycled paint brush Santa is a fun and easy DIY project for kids (regardless of their crafting talent level) because there are  so many ways to make your creation unique. 

You can personalize it by writing a person’s name on the handle, dip the brush in paint or leave it natural, decorate it with google eyes, paint a face… the options are limitless!

Kids will also have fun creating a Santa hat using felt, spackle, pompoms, greenery, and/or bits of ribbon. And since most paintbrushes come with a hole in them, your new decoration is quickly ready to hang (once it dries, of course). 

READ MORE: Animals In Iceland: A Guide to 25 Domesticated & Wild Species

DIY Wood Snowman
Wood Snowmen via Canva

37. Upcycled Wood Snowman

Frosty’s got nothing on these snazzy snowmen, which are made using wood left over from projects around the house.

For maximum holiday impact, make several different snowmen you can group together.  If you want, these easy Christmas crafts for adults or kids could easily be made to represent each member of the family.

The process is simple: Just paint each board white, paint the face, then glue some old buttons down the front. Then add some holiday pizazz to your upcycled wood snowman by tying ribbon or scraps of felt around the neck for a scarf.

For the hat, use scraps from last year’s cloth Christmas gift bags, old Christmas socks, or whatever festive fabric you may have lying around. 

READ MORE: Alaskan Animals: 40 Species You Can See During Your Alaska Vacation

38. Upcycled K-Cup Snowman Hat Ornaments

Billions of K-Cups are used in over 75 million homes each year for their convenience, but they create an enormous amount of plastic and aluminum waste. 

Because approximately 95% of their plastic composite can’t be recycled, K-cups are estimated to take a century or more to fully decompose. Whenever possible, we recommend using a BPA-Free Reusable K-Cup to help reduce the number of K-cups piling up in our landfills.

But if your family, friends, or co-workers insist on using the disposable pods, you can do some good for the environment this holiday season by transforming them into fun recycled Christmas decorations. 

From bells to snow buckets, snowmen, and even mini-Starbucks cups, the video above offers numerous easy Christmas crafts you can make to decorate your tree. The holiday snowman hat is our favorite!

READ MORE: What Is Ecotourism? (The History & Principles of Responsible Travel)

Stick Christmas Tree
Stick Christmas Tree via Canva

39. Stick Christmas Tree

This easy-to-make Stick Christmas Tree craft idea is great for smaller spaces, offering a fun way for everyone in your household to have a personalized tree.

First, collect sticks from your backyard or neighborhood and arrange them in order of length, longest to shortest. Then tie a double knot of yarn or string around one end of the longest stick, and repeat the process up to the top.

Remember to leave plenty of room in between each stick for hanging Christmas decorations. You’ll want to have roughly the same amount of space between all of your sticks.

When you get to the top of your tree design, start working your way back down the other side, tying knots as you go. Once you’re done, hang your Stick Christmas Tree on the wall.

Now you can decorate your creation with Christmas lights, ribbons, natural elements, personal keepsakes, or anything else that speaks to your personality. 

READ MORE: Top 20 National Forests in America for Camping & Hiking

40. Recycled Plastic Spoon Christmas Tree

When life gets busy, we often get into the habit of grabbing a quick bite at the drive-thru or having meals delivered. 

More often than not, these takeout meals include single-use utensils. Most people have a junk drawer full of these plastic spoons, forks, and knives. 

It’s estimated that 40 billion plastic utensils go into landfills every year, and take thousands of years to decompose.

Unfortunately, plastic cutlery is difficult for recycling centers to process.  So it would benefit all of us to get in the simple habit of asking for no plastic utensils unless absolutely necessary.

In the meantime, a good way of cleaning out the utensil clutter is by making this attractive plastic spoon Christmas tree. While you’re at it, why not make a matching wreath? Watch the video above for detailed instructions. 

READ MORE: List of National Parks By State (An Epic Guide to “America’s Best Idea”)

DIY Christmas Crafts -snowman

In the end, using recycled things to make DIY Christmas crafts and homemade Christmas gifts might be the perfect thing to help us regain our youthful enthusiasm for the holidays.

It doesn’t cost as much as buying new (Charlie Brown would be so proud!). It isn’t damaging the planet (Mother Earth will be so relieved!).

And it pushes us into the thoughtful, rather than capitalist, spirit of the season (Dr. Seuss will be delighted!).

Most of us in the western world are fortunate to be able to celebrate the Christmas holidays however we like.

And these easy Christmas craft projects offer a fun, yet meaningful way to show our appreciation for that blessing. 

– by Jonathon Engels, with additional reporting by Christina Maggitas & Mary Gabbett, featured Image via Canva



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