5 brilliant ways to upcycle at Christmas (without offending anyone)

From DIY Christmas decorations to alternative Christmas trees, find out how to make your festive season unique while wasting and spending less.

Updated

Presents wrapped in fabric

Christmas for most people is an enjoyable time of year: a time to get together with family and friends, give and receive (sometimes lavish) presents and make your home look suitably festive. But you only need to think about all the presents, wrapping paper and Christmas cards that end up in the bin to realise it can also be a wasteful holiday.

With upcycling increasing in popularity, there are lots of ideas for you to make your Christmas more mindful – without upsetting those family members with high standards. We’ve looked at the best upcycled Christmas ideas to get your started.

1. Consider creative DIY Christmas gifts

Treat your loved ones to something unique with the personal touch by making them upcycled Christmas gifts for the home.

Got an old plant pot lying around? Give it a clean and unleash your creative side with some paint and festive sparkle before potting a succulent. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at our advice on how to make plant pots.

If you need a present for a beauty lover, clean up an old jar and fill it with a homemade coffee body scrub. Just use three tablespoons of recycled coffee grounds, two tablespoons of coconut oil and one tablespoon of coarse sugar before stirring together until they’ve combined.

2. Make gift wrapping extra special

We all know how much wrapping paper gets thrown out at Christmas – and it’s made even more painful by the fact that most gift wrap isn’t recyclable. (This is because thin paper often doesn’t have enough fibres to be gleaned from a processing machine, while laminated and foiled sheets contain elements that can’t be processed by common tools.)

But if you’ve ever spent some time in Japan, you’ll know that they have their own great way to wrap gifts. Furoshiki, as it’s known, is the art of fabric wrapping. This means the wrapping is really part of the gift, so you could upcycle a shawl or personalise old cotton pieces using natural dyes. Make it extra festive by tucking a sprig of holly in the bow.

If you’re going to stick with paper, you could still upcycle by using old magazine paper to make a DIY gift bow. These can look brilliant if you choose a colour that complements the wrapping paper, so take a look at one of the many online tutorials and get cracking.

3. Upcycle Christmas cards

Christmas cards are another culprit for filling up your refuse bin. Again, they’re normally not recyclable thanks to materials like glitter and glue that are difficult for common machinery to process. They can also take up a lot of space. So why not reuse them? (And no, we don’t mean scribbling out ‘from Auntie Mabel’ and adding in your own name.)

Keep hold of your cards and get creative: cut your favourite details out and attach to picture frames, or glue the cover images together to make simple gift boxes.

If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even make a DIY Christmas wreath out of them. Cut out your cards into identical holly shapes, glue toothpicks on the back then stick them into a circular piece of Styrofoam at an angle so just the front of the card is showing. Add ribbon to the top so you can hang it up and you’re good to go!

If you’re not feeling creative, any children in the family probably are. Get some child-friendly scissors and let little ones choose which cards they want to use for these decoration ideas – it’s a great way to let them really feel part of the celebrations as well as to hone their fine motor skills.

4. Make an alternative Christmas tree

Bored of your plastic tree and don’t fancy the faff of getting a real one? You can replace it with something more unique.

If you have an old wooden step ladder, decorate it with hanging baubles and a bold topper to give your guests something to comment on. Or, if you can get a hold of some reclaimed wood, you can make your own recycled Christmas tree. Make it into a tree-shaped shelf to mount on the wall or drill planks together into the shape of a tree, adding your preferred Christmas decorations. These ideas will last year after year and can really make your festive household stand out.

Christmas tree made with wooden ladder and ornaments

5. Get creative with DIY Christmas decorations

There are so many upcycled Christmas decorations you can make yourself.

For example, make your own recycled Christmas decorations by using old light bulbs for baubles. Grab some metallic spray paint and glitter and let your creativity run wild. Then fold a piece of string into a loop, tie a knot in the end and secure to the light bulb using a hot glue gun before hanging your ready-made DIY Christmas baubles.

Another idea is to make your own snow globe, simply using old glass jars. Arrange small nick-nacks from previous Christmases onto the underside of the jar lid (you may want to use old corks as a platform for them, so they’re more visible). Glue them onto the lid and once they’re dry, pour one part water to one part glycerine into the jar and add glitter. Once you’re happy with the amount of glitter, secure your lid tightly and give it a shake. Want to make sure you’re well prepared before the family descends and sees your new upcycled creations? Check out our pre-Christmas cleaning tips.

Originally published