Upcycled DIY Decor for a Trash-Free Holiday

We all know the feeling. You walk into your local department store or discount retailer, ready to purchase a few needed household items. And then it hits youthe bright sparkling lights, the elaborate wreaths, the hundreds of festive figurines all meticulously aligned in holiday splendor along the store’s entryway. With a season as feel-good and joyful as this one, it can be hard to resist the glitter and gumdrops sometimes. We just want a way to fill our homes with that very same joy that these objects spark in us, right?

Yes. However, there’s something many people don’t realize as they fill their shopping bags with seasonal decor every year. While there are countless things we could buy at the store, what may surprise you are the bounty of decorative possibilities lying just under your nose. Get your Do-It-Yourself shoes on, because every single one of these decorations can be created from basic household items, the majority of which you may be discarding into your waste bin on a regular basis! So save those plastic soda bottles, and keep a few of those empty toilet rolls…the things you can ‘upcycle’ and create from what you thought was trash just may shock you.

Toilet Paper Rolls Wreath

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Hold onto those toilet paper rolls, because this is one wreath that’s far too cute not to try making this year. Hang it anywhere in your house, or even spray it down with some outdoor sealant to keep it from getting weathered on your front door!

What you need:

Toilet paper rolls

Dried cranberries or red beads

Hot glue


Wine Corks → Miniature Reindeer


There are two types of people in the world: those who save their wine and bottled beverage corks to ‘eventually make a craft someday,’ and those who simply discard them. Well, this December, we think everyone should be the first of the two! All it takes is a handful of corks and a few other items around the house, and you’ve got yourself one of the cutest little reindeer that anyone who walks through your doors will have ever seen. Try adding a bow (or bowtie) for some additional flair!

What you’ll need:

A handful corks

Select one: Black beads, sharpie, raisins, black buttons (for eyes)

Select one: Red bead, small red pom pom, red button, cherry (for nose)

Sticks OR felt tubing for antlers and tail

Optional: Red or green ribbon/bow

Clothespins → Decorative Snowflakes


If you’re a frequent user of clothespins, you probably know how easy it is for them to break, get lost, or chewed by a four-legged family member! Keep at least a few of them from going to waste this year by creating these adorable snowflakes out of them. You’ll have to break them apart anyway, so don’t throw the broken ones away!

What you’ll need:


Wood finish (to keep them shiny and non-splintering)

Hot glue

White paint

Lightbulbs → Charlie Brown Characters


Hey, don’t throw away those burnt out bulbs! Some of the cutest little characters can be made out of those spherical pieces of trash, even with as little as just a sharpie. If you’re a fan of these classic movies, you’ll definitely need to give this idea a try.

What you’ll need:

White light bulbs

Paint (if making character other than snoopy)

Colored markers

Felt tubing (if desired)

Plastic bottles → Festive Trees


Oh, the dreaded plastic bottle. With the countless number of empty plastic soda containers washing up on our shores and being found in our ocean, discarding these bad boys can fill a person’s heart with guilt. Even after recycling, you may feel guilty for the output of waste, even so… this holiday season, though, it’s only positive vibes on the horizon. Take that empty bottle, grab a pair of scissors and try creating this adorable Dr. Seuss-like tree. See a full demonstration on how to create this up-cycled masterpiece here!

What you’ll need:

An empty green plastic liter bottle



Optional: a handful of mini bulbs to spare from your tree

Old Greeting Cards → Cocktail Markers


You know those old seasonal greeting cards, the ones from people you’re not as close with, but that are still pretty to look at and you don’t want to get rid of them (or, you just feel bad throwing them in the trash)? At the end of the day, they’ll either end up piling up in your desk drawer for years, or you’ll end up disposing of them anyway. Clear up both physical and mental space by creating something unique eye-catching from these greeting cards. Cut them in simple donut shapes for an easy DIY cocktail marker set… you’re welcome.

What you’ll need:

Greeting cards and scissors (that’s it!)

Empty tins and Cans → Snowmen


Save those soup cans and empty coffee tins, too, because it doesn’t have to snow for you to make a cute snowman this year! Paint a few different sizes of tin containers white, and you’ve created a homemade ‘Frosty’ that can be saved with your holiday decor for years to come.

What you’ll need:

Empty tin cans of various sizes

White paint

Sharpie or felt pieces (or even cardstock)

Fabric from old, unused clothes (to make accessories like a scarf for the snowman)

A stick or two for arms

A soda bottle topper and circular piece of paper painted black (if you’d like it to have a top hat!)

Egg Cartons → Candy Canes


An especially easy craft to make with little ones, there are countless things you can make from an egg carton, but this candy cane is a favorite of many for the holidays. Cut out the 12 half-domes of an egg carton, paint half of them white and half of them red and string them together with a piece of simple string or thread. If you want, glue can be used as well. When you have guests over, they likely won’t know what it’s made of until they get a closer look!

What you’ll need:

An egg carton per candy cane


Glue or string

Red and white paint

Bottle Caps → Ornaments


It might be satisfying to pop the top off a soda or beer bottle, but it’s not such a good feeling when you go to dispose of it, not knowing where in our ocean it could have the potential to end up! Remove that worry by creating wholesome, one-of-a-kind ornaments from these bottle tops. Whether you decide to create a wreath or snowmen with these tiny objects, they’re surely better off here than they are exposed to nature. They even make great gifts, too!

What you’ll need:

Bottle caps

A bit of ribbon/bow or wire (to make the tree branch ‘hook’)



Paint, if desired

Whatever other accessories or bits of flair you wish to place on the item

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generate approximately 25% more trash during the holiday season compared to other times of the year, totaling about 1 million extra tons of waste.

During a season of gratitude, gatherings and positive vibes, it seems more than admirable to try and at least take even the tiniest of steps toward a less waste-filled holiday season.

Rather than purchasing tons more decorations this year that come wrapped in plastic and other harmful waste materials, fill your tank with what matters most: spending time together. Whether that means adventuring outdoors into the snow, watching a beautiful winter sunset on our ocean or coming together to make a family crafting project out of items that could have ended up harming marine life, the possibilities are boundless. With so many fantastic creative options to help keep our ocean clean during December this year (not to mention that the kids will love), which of these are you most excited to create?

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