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Eco-friendly holiday decorations and gift ideas

Here are some “green” décor ideas for all the upcoming holidays you may celebrate including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Photo of someone making a holiday wreath
Posted on Nov 4, 2021, 3:45:00 PM GMT

Decorating and buying gifts for the holidays can help you get into the spirit of the season, but if you’re looking for a change this year, why not consider some ways to make the holidays still look and feel festive without all the waste and excess. Here are some "green" décor and gift giving ideas for upcoming holidays you may be celebrating including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

For Thanksgiving, there are so many ways to create a more environmentally friendly, but still warm, holiday gathering.

Use real dishes and washable napkins

We know cleaning up from a big meal can be time consuming, but it’s "greener" to choose reusable instead of throwaway table settings that create tons of waste. Also, shiny dishes, silverware, and glasses make for a beautiful sparkly table, and you can easily load up the dishwasher to help with cleanup or enlist all the family to help wash.

Create a fall leaf candle

Grab some beautiful fall leaves and let them dry out. Use a decoupage glue, which dries clear, to attach them to the side of a mason jar. Add a tea light or a votive candle to create a warm fall feel.

Give thanks with a tree

Gather some small sticks outside and put them in a vase. Have guests write what they are thankful for and attach the messages to the sticks. Not only does this give guests something to think about, but it can also be a beautiful centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.

Set up pinecone place settings

Grab some pinecones, put them in a bowl of water and shake to remove any debris. Once dry, you can paint them to match your décor. Hand write or print small name tags and fit them in between the wood part. You may need to make a small cut in the wood to hold the tags.

Make a festive centerpiece

Use a platter or wooden tray and fill it with a variety of fall fruits and vegetables such as pumpkins, gourds, pears, apples, and cabbage. Fill it in with fresh cut fall flowers in complementary colors like orange, yellow, or rust. Lay the tray on a table runner as a beautiful centerpiece.

Besides a white Christmas, we can dream of a green one too with more eco-friendly ideas.

Send a holiday e-card

Instead of worrying about your cards getting delivered on time, send an e-card instead. You can ensure it gets delivered when you want, and you’ll help save the trees from the papermill. This also allows the recipient to save the photo digitally instead of having a pile of cards that will likely head to the trash after the holidays.

Make a card wreath

If you get a bunch of holiday cards in the mail, you can recycle them by making your own wreath. Use greeting cards, pages from a magazine, or even gift wrap. Cut cards into leaf or tree shapes and glue a toothpick on the end of one side of the paper. Stick the toothpicks into a foam wreath until covered, then hang on your door.

Get creative with wrapping

Instead of buying rolls of wrapping paper that will be unwrapped and tossed quickly, consider wrapping gifts with old maps, newspapers (the comic page can be fun to read, too), or paper bags. Use a cloth, scarf, or hair tie to decorate instead of a ribbon.

Rethink the tree

Consider using a tree in a pot that you can eventually plant in your garden, or make a tree from recycled cardboard. Just paint and decorate it like a real tree.

Make a natural star

Grab some twigs and cut them so that they are all the same length, then use some twine to tie them together in the shape of a star. You can hang it on your door, tree, or from the ceiling.

Make reindeer from nature

If you have some leftover pinecones from your Thanksgiving decorations, you can use them to make adorable reindeer by attaching googly-eyes, red noses, and ribbon to hang.

Hanukkah decorations are typically simple with blue and white, the theme of light. Here are ways you can bring in the brightness but keep an eye on how you can do it sustainably.

Brighten the center

Make a pretty table centerpiece with a glass vase filled with gold coins or dreidels. Top with fresh flowers.

Create an earthy menorah

Get nine small terracotta pots and fill them with sand. Eight pots should be the same height, but the ninth one (called the shamash, or helper, which lights the others), should stand out by being either taller or offset from the others. You can paint the pots or decorate them however you wish. Bury small candle holders under the sand so you can make the candles more stable when lit.

Find your place with corks

Start saving those wine corks now for crafts later. Paint the corks in Hanukkah colors like white, silver, or blue, then lay them on the side and make a cut to tuck in a name card.

Make your own dreidel

This is a fun craft to do with kids. Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup of water
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Slowly add in the water and mix with your hands. Continue to mix and knead as water is used up. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and put some flour on a clean area. Make a 4" ball from the dough and mold so that the bottom comes to a point and the top is flat with a narrow handle and you have four sides. Place on a cookie sheet and bake about 30 minutes or until lightly brown. Once done, allow it to cool. After cooling, use acrylic paint to paint the dreidel. Allow it to dry, then add the Hebrew letters on each side with a marker. After it’s dry, use shellac to preserve it.

Kwanzaa is a holiday that celebrates African American culture with the colors of black, red, and green. Here are some ways to highlight the “green” ecofriendly side.

Use fresh fruit as décor

Since the name "Kwanzaa" comes from a Swahili phrase that means "first fruits," it makes sense to use fruit at each guest setting. Grab an orange and poke with a wire pin and attach a place card to the pin. Use either a red, black, or green card color with a complementary colored marker to print the name. The orange then can be used as an appetizer.

Create a corn candle

Get a tall pillar candle and buy dried corn stalks in various colors and glue them to the sides of the candle. Add red, black, and green ribbons to finish the look.

Display the colors

Get black, red, and green ribbons to tie around candles and vases or create a ribbon wreath for the front door.

Wave the flag

Get a piece of white construction paper or poster board and divide it into 3 sections. Paint the top red, middle black and bottom green. Hang it indoors or out.

Show the principles

The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. You can display these words throughout your home on homemade signs. Paint them on pieces of wood and display on a mantle.

By using materials in nature or around the house, you can create a festive, environmentally friendly holiday this season.

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