one green planet
one green planet

The holidays are a time for giving, but all too often, confused in the commerce of Christmastime, we make it into a time for spending. We, of course, spend loads on thematic décor — trees, lights, ornaments, and so on — but we likely spend the most on giving gifts. Though many aren’t so memorable or meaningful, all those impersonal gag ties, popcorn tins, and gift packs of toiletries add up, yet we still feel obligated to do so.

The money savings alone could make it worthwhile to get into upcycled gifts this season, but there are many other reasons as well. Making upcycled gifts personalizes our presents, creating the opportunity to not only put meaning behind what we are giving but have it be memorable and different for those who receive it. Upcycled gifts are also more environmentally friendly, can be unpredictably fun for recipients, and are a chance to be creative.

1. Tree Ornaments


Tree ornaments are a holiday season classic, and the best of trees are those made with an eclectic mix of personal ornaments passed down through the years, made by the kids and others. That’s why giving friends and family handmade upcycled tree ornaments is destined to be a success. Old buttons can be strung together to make a wreath. Cookies cutters are an easy go: Just add a hook, or they can be painted, or they can be used to frame a picture. Jar lids (stick something on the inside), old puzzle pieces (paint them and glue them together in a holiday shape), or old board game pieces (rogue Scrabble pieces work really well because they can spell something seasonal) — these can all make for great upcycled ornaments.

2. Bottle Cap Pins

Pins are a crowd pleaser of a gift as they are easy to use, carry, and treasure as a memento. Bottle caps are the perfect size for making them. The inside can either be hand-painted, or they can be filled with a relevant sticker, magazine cut-out, an initial, the year, a holiday image or whatever else. Then, a quick zap with the hot glue gun puts a safety pin on the other side of the cap, and they can be worn on shirts, put on jackets, attached to bags, stuck onto bulletin boards, or kept in a jewelry box to discover on down the line. These can also just as easily be magnets or charms for a necklace.

3. Snack Jars


Many of us have wised up and started avoiding plastic containers, leading us inevitably to buying lots of jars, saving said jars for what seems like way too long, and then ultimately realizing we don’t need quite so many for use in the kitchen. It’s okay because they are perfect for Christmas gifts. Firstly, make some nice snack goodies: Christmas cookies, quick pickles, homemade jam, or a wicked trail mix (Dried cranberries, walnuts, and dark chocolate chips might do well, thematically speaking). The jar can be jazzed up with a holiday label, a bit of recycled wrapping paper, or reused ribbons for an easy bow.

4. Holiday Card Collage

Christmas cards are one of those things that tend to happen, we delight momentarily and then, riddled with guilt, we struggle to throw them away. We all mean well in these exchanges, but they aren’t meant to linger forever. Instead, put the scissors to all of those cards from seasons past and make holiday collages out them, maybe even gluing them to the envelopes they came in. These can either be given, then, as new cards, or they can be put in a nice frame made out of scrap wood or even just decorated cardboard. It’s something that somebody can put up for the holidays then either scrap or store it away with the decorations for next year. Best of all, no more boxes of cards.

5. Painted Cans


It seems crazy, but old cans make for really handy presents. Many of us are accustomed to using them for pencil holders, but in reality, they can work for holding all sorts of stuff: bamboo toothbrushes, candles (cans make amazing lanterns), kitchen utensils, pot plant herbs, and so on. The key to kicking the can up a notch or two above trash is painting it, and there are many options. They can easily be turned into Santa or a snowman, they can be sort of washed to look antique, or they can be painted however one’s creative heart desires. But, honestly, put a little energy into making the can look nice then put something in it, and it’s a hit.

This holiday could be different. It could spell big change (in a positive way) by being greener, less expensive, and more personal than ever. Best of luck with the projects and gifts.

Lead image source: kuvona/Shutterstock

Easy Ways to Help the Planet:

  • Eat Less Meat: Download Food Monster, the largest plant-based Recipe app on the App Store to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy. You can also buy a hard or soft copy of our favorite vegan cookbooks.
  • Reduce Your Fast Fashion Footprint: Take initiative by standing up against fast Fashion Pollution and supporting sustainable and circular brands like Tiny Rescue that are raising awareness around important issues through recycled zero-waste clothing designed to be returned and remade over and over again.
  • Support Independent Media: Being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!
  • Sign a Petition: Your voice matters! Help turn petitions into victories by signing the latest list of must-sign petitions to help people, animals, and the planet.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest news and important stories involving animals, the environment, sustainable living, food, health, and human interest topics by subscribing to our newsletter!
  • Do What You Can: Reduce waste, plant trees, eat local, travel responsibly, reuse stuff, say no to single-use plastics, recycle, vote smart, switch to cold water laundry, divest from fossil fuels, save water, shop wisely, Donate if you can, grow your own food, volunteer, conserve energy, compost, and don’t forget about the microplastics and microbeads lurking in common household and personal care products!