Three Easy Upcycled DIY Christmas Ornaments for a Green Christmas this Year
By E. Welsh
Walking in a Waste-filled Wonderland
Nothing says “magic” like Christmas. Nothing, that is, except a landscape of pristine evergreens frosted with crisp snow on a perfect winter’s day. That feeling of winter magic is what we try to recreate during the holiday season by bringing warm lights and piney-scented trees into our homes.
While Christmas is a time of magic, it’s also a time of high consumerism. Families all over the world spend more money during Christmas than any other time of the year. They go on expensive family vacations, buy truckloads of presents, and bake mountains of Christmas treats.
All this merrymaking over the holiday season unfortunately leads to a lot of waste. Notably, plastic waste as packaging, plastic toys, and cheap ornaments multiply in people’s shopping carts.
A Brief History of Plastic
Plastic waste has become an increasing concern over the last hundred years. Because it’s inexpensive and durable, plastic has exploded until it’s found in virtually every aspect of our lives. Plastic is so durable, in fact, that it doesn’t fully break down. Ever.
Not only does plastic remain in the environment, it’s also the staple product for disposable wrappings and containers. As a result, the problem of what to do with plastic has quickly grown out of control.
People are starting to recognize the problems plastic is creating for our beautiful planet. Microplastics are filling our water systems, damaging individual wildlife and whole ecosystems.
Increasing evidence also suggests that the chemicals used to create plastics may be harmful to human health. As we learn more about the impact of plastics, many people are now trying to move away from the typical plastic-filled lifestyle.
Giving gifts is a beautiful part of the celebrated “Christmas spirit.” But the increased negative impact on the environment is often as unnoticed as the forgotten present stuck behind the tree.
One of my family’s favorite parts of Christmas is getting out all our Christmas tree ornaments. Many of these ornaments have been hand-crafted by loved ones and personalized for each one of us. These beautiful and varied ornaments remind us of the love surrounding us all year long.
Christmas is coming and throngs of people are hunting for last-minute gifts. Take some time to reconsider your gifting options! Why not give the simple but impactful gift of an ornament? And rather than buy one, why not upcycle one?
Below are some ideas to get you started. Recycling old plastic doesn’t have to look like a kindergarten craft, but the process shouldn’t be difficult either. Take this as an opportunity for you or your children to practice generosity for others and the environment.
Easy DIY Upcycled Plastic Ornaments
Ornament #1: Save the Seals
This easy ornament uses up leftover plastic wrappers to create the cutest seal you’ve ever seen hanging on a Christmas tree. To craft this simple ornament, you’ll need:
· Leftover plastic wrappers (for use as stuffing)
· Gray wool felt
· Black thread or sharpie
· Grey thread or liquid stitch
· Paper and pencil
· A needle (if sewing)
· A bit of ribbon
Use the paper to trace a seal shape, positioning flippers and tail so they’re clearly seen. Or alternately, cut a circle with a nose and flippers poking out at the bottom and top. Use this circle as a guide to cut two identical layers of felt.
Next, use black thread (or a sharpie) to add facial details, including whiskers. You can knot the thread on both the top and bottom of the felt to keep the long whiskers in place.
Once you’re happy with your seal’s face, sandwich the two layers of felt and stitch the edges closed using a simple whipstitch. Use the grey thread so it blends in with the felt. Or, you can use a liquid stitch to glue the two pieces together!
Stuff your seal with leftover plastic wrappers (the thin kind from around bottle lids). Finish stitching the seam once the seal is plump enough.
Finally, stitch or glue a ribbon loop into the seam so your seal’s cute face can beam down from a crisp pine branch. Every time you look at this cute ornament, you’ll think about the amazing animals you’re helping by reusing plastic and consuming less!
Ornament #2: Turtle Christmas Ornaments
This shiny turtle is easy enough for children to enjoy making but looks sophisticated when displayed on a Christmas tree. To make this ornament, you will need:
· Plastic bottle lids, various sizes
· A large pair of sharp scissors/sharp knife
· Green, brown, and yellow acrylic paint OR gold/silver spray paint
· A strong glue
· A piece of ribbon
To create this ornament, choose 1-7 bottle lids and arrange them in a circle. Glue them together securely. This will create the “shell” of your turtle.
Next, choose a small bottle lid for the head and two large lids to cut in half for flippers. Glue each piece around the shell to create a turtle shape.
Now it’s time to transform these plastic pieces into art. Use the paint to create an artistic shell and believable flippers. Or, spray paint your turtle gold or silver for a fancier look. Make sure to paint down the sides of the bottle lids as well.
To amp up the finish of this ornament, paint the insides/back side of the bottle lids too. Once the paint is completely dry, glue a loop of ribbon to the turtle. Finally, add your name and date on the back for a personal touch!
Ornament #3: Home for the Holidays
Create a miniature Christmas scene with disposable plastic food containers, a piece of wood, and a bit of Christmas cheer. Unique and environmentally friendly, this ornament is the perfect solution for a last-minute gift.
What you’ll need:
· Left-over thin plastic or Styrofoam storage containers
· A small wooden round (or the bottom of your Christmast tree!)
· Paint and paintbrushes
· Reference images
Constructing this ornament is simple. Glue a base and several upright pieces of plastic or styrofoam together, to create a bookend shape. You can use a wooden round for the base, or layer several sheets of plastic in a pinch.
The upright pieces of plastic can be in the shape of a house, a Christmas tree, or anything else. Glue several plastic pieces in various shapes (cars, ice skaters, houses, presents) in front of the larger backdrop. You can fold a flap on the bottom of the plastic pieces for easy gluing.
Finally, use paint to turn this upcycled plastic ornament into a winter wonderland or a cozy home scene. When you’re done painting, add a ribbon loop. Don’t forget to put your initials and the date on the back!
I’d like a Green Christmas, Please
Trying to have a “green” Christmas can be hard. Gift-giving is one of the most enjoyable parts of the holiday season. Buying and giving gifts usually increases permanent plastic levels. But you can do things differently!
Now when Rudolph lands on your roof, you won’t have to explain to him how you personally contributed to the Great Garbage Patch floating like an island in the Pacific Ocean. You can go out and enjoy the winter weather with a clear conscience.
Ocean Blue Project and The Ocean Cleanup
The ocean’s health is essential to the health of the planet as a whole. To contribute to ocean health, you can organize a clean-up project near you by following the instructions on the Ocean Blue Project’s page. Also, consider shopping in the Ocean Blue Project’s eco-friendly online store. 100% of your funds will go to cleaning microplastics out of the ocean.
Author Bio: Emily Welsh is a writer, tutor, and nature-lover. She spends her free time exploring the woods near her home in the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia.