This Christmas, instead of spending a ton of money on a gift that negatively impacts the Earth, how about giving gifts made using mostly recycled materials? The holiday doesn’t have to be a burden on the environment, with just a little effort and imagination, it’s easy to reduce the environmental impact of the season. You can give more while spending less by giving these gifts that are much more personal and unique. And, if you’re especially short on time, we’ve added a few recycled Christmas gifts that you can purchase too.
1. Rustic Twig Photo Frame
A rustic twig frame filled with a favorite photo makes a wonderful personal gift for a friend or family member, and it’s an incredibly easy project too. All you have to do is gather up some small twigs, bunch them together and create a natural frame. You can tie the twig bunches together using yarn or thread, and then use ribbon to wrap the corners. The photo is then secured using double-sided tape to another piece of the ribbon, which is then glued to the back of the frame. You can get creative with it and add other personal items by gluing them onto the twigs.
This video by DIY Handicraft provides a tutorial that can help get you started.
2. A Warm Hat
Did you know you can turn one of your old sweaters, maybe one that was accidentally shrunken in the wash, into a hat? Check out this video by Being Crafty Below, which shows you how to make a trendy slouchy hat:
If you have a wool sweater that was shrunken and felted in the washer, but you haven’t had the heart to toss it out, the good news is, you don’t have to as it makes for a bounty of craft material, which means you can turn it into all sorts of things, including a hat. Felted knits are ideal to work with as the edges won’t unravel, they stretch, and you’ll be saving them from the landfill too.
You’ll just need one felted sweater, in fact, it may be enough to make two hats, depending on the size. If you don’t have one, you may be able to find one at a thrift store, or use an old one and throw it into the washer and dryer, it will work with most types of sweaters, as long as it’s made from an animal fiber such as wool, cashmere or mohair. Just don’t use synthetics or cotton. The downside is that you’ll need to measure the head of the person you plan to give it to, but they don’t necessarily have to know why if you can get a little clever. You’ll need the height, meaning from the top center of their head down to the bottom of their ears, as well as circumference, measuring around the fullest part of their head, just above the ears.
- Make a pattern. You’ll need to sew five panels together, so to determine the width of each one, simply divide the head circumference by 5, then add one inch for seam allowance, a ½” on each side. Add an inch to your length measurement. Now, cut a rectangle out of cardstock or paper that measures the length by the width. Fold the pattern lengthwise in half, and hold it with the fold on the left. Now trim the upper half of the right-side edge so that it curves toward the fold, ending in a point at the fold. Unfold the piece and you should have something like a beehive shape. You can use this pattern to cut out five pieces from your sweater.
- Sew the seams. First pin two pieces together, with the right sides facing, along one of the long sides, and then sew using a ½” seam allowance. Start at the bottom edge, and stop about a ½” from the point at the top. Repeat to connect the remaining three pieces, then sew the first panel to the last.
- Press open the seams and then trim away some of the bulky seam allowances at the top of the hat to flatten it out. Now topstitch every seam from the right side, stitching through the seam allowances to make them stay flat.
- To finish, simply hem the bottom edge.
3. A Newspaper Basket
A newspaper basket is a great way to repurpose all of the newspapers you have lying around. It can be used as a recycling bin, to hold magazines or books, or even as a comfortable pet bed. All you need is a pair of scissors, a stapler, some craft glue, and ribbon.
- Trim the fold from a section of a newspaper to release each of the 12″ x 22″ individual pages.
- Fold each page in half along its length, then into quarters, and finally, into eighths. The resulting strips should be about 1 ½” inches x 22″. You’ll need a lot – 100 will generally do the trick, and just one Sunday New York Times, for example, should be more than enough.
- Begin by interweaving the centers of four strips. If you need to, you can use a staple or a small drop of glue, placed at each overlap in order to hold it in place.
- Continue weaving the strips until you achieve the dimension you desire.
- For the sides of the basket, fold all of the strips upward, at 90 degrees, and keep weaving, making sure that all of the strips are snugly woven.
- For the corners, you’ll just need to bend the side strips and continue to weave along the adjacent edges. In order to hold things in place, use glue or staples.
- Add a double-folded strip (just fold one of your strips in half again, which provides added thickness and strength to the top rim.
- Now you can fold over any strips that protrude from the top edge, and glue them in place along the inside of the basket. If you have any ragged ends from the overlapped strip, add a row to cover them up – you might want to use the New York Times banner (or other paper banners).
- Add other decorative items as desired, such as ribbon.
4. Stacked Book Table Lamp
Have a book lover on your Christmas list? This project makes great use out of all those old books you have lying around, and it’s sure to be appreciated by avid readers.
- Old hardcover books, about 8
- A lamp kit
- A lampshade
- Spray paint (any color desired)
- Drill and 1/2″ drill bit
- Razor blade or box cutter
- 1-1/4″ screws
- 2″ screws
- Spray paint lamp fittings and allow it to dry.
- Stack and arrange your old hardcover books. Place the lamp’s threaded rod next to book stack, making sure there is an inch of clearance on the top for the remaining lamp assembly.
- Clamp down the bottom book to the table. Now, using a half-inch drill bit, drill a hole in the center of the book about halfway down.
- Create a channel by opening the base book, and then use the razor blade or box cutter to cut a channel where the electrical cord will be placed. Be sure that it matches the width and thickness of the cord.
- Use the washer and lock nut from the lamp kit to attach the threaded rod to the base book. Shut the book and tighten down the top lock nut.
- Enter from the bottom to slide the electrical wire through the threaded rod. Leave 1-½” to 2″ of electrical wire at the top of the threaded rod so you can attach the lamp parts. Drill 1-¼” screws to secure the book to itself. Use four to six screws, making sure that you avoid the electrical wire.
- Attach the remaining books by clamping down and using the half-inch drill bit to drill a hole in the center of each book. Slide the books one at a time through the threaded rod, drilling four 2-inch screws to secure each book to the book beneath it.
- Open the cover of the top book and secure it with four 2-inch screws.
- Assemble the lamp kit parts, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Attach the lampshade.
5. Comic Strip Bangles
Perfect for the comic-loving female in your life, you can upcycle a plastic bottle and a comic book into a bangle bracelet.
- Search through comic books to find images you think your gift recipient would like, and fit in the width of the bangle.
- Using really sharp scissors, cut off an approximately 1.5″ section from a plastic water bottle.
- Cut strips of comic books (you can also use patterned papers, wrapping paper or upcycled papers, as long as they’re wider than the bangles. Be sure you like the image that shows before you get the glue. Trim any excess paper off.
- Apply a thin, even coat of clear nail polish on the inside part of the plastic bangles. Work in small sections, making sure that you smooth out the paper with your finger as you go. Allow it to dry.
- When the comic book paper is glued and totally dry on the bangle, apply a thin coat on top of the just glued paper to the inside of the bangle in order to seal and protect it using nail polish.
This video offers a tutorial for making all sorts of bangles out of plastic bottles:
And, for those with a serious lack of time issue, there are some great gifts you can buy that are made from recyclable materials too.
6. Recycled Multicolor Sari Handbag
This Recycled Multicolor Sari Purse is a great gift for eco-conscious person in your life, or anyone who loves the bohemian style. It is an authentic one of a kind purse handmade from reclaimed Indian Sari dress. It has vibrant colors that complement a casual, bohemian, gypsy style, and thanks to its recycled nature, it will help save the Earth too. Plus, as it is handmade from recycled materials, each one is unique.
7. Kitras Art Glass Tree of Enchantment, Love
This beautiful glass tree is made from recycled glass and is ideal as a Christmas gift your recipient will be able to enjoy year after year as they decorate their tree. The Kitras Art Glass Tree of Enchantment, Love is a “Tree of Love,” as the company notes, that represents the countless blessings that love brings into our lives.
8. NOVICA Hand Blown Recycled Wine Glasses
Ideal for the wine enthusiasts, the NOVICA Hand Blown Recycled Wine Glasses are an original NOVICA fair trade product in association with National Geographic, all made from recycled blown glass. They’re even certified, and come complete with an official NOVICA Story Card certifying quality & authenticity.