Thanksgiving table decorations. Glitter acorn.

The theme of Thanksgiving is gratitude. Living in a state of gratitude for the natural world has given many of us a yearning to protect our planet. One way we can help protect our planet is by reducing waste. We all know that the holidays can create a lot of waste, but you and your family can make these Thanksgiving decorations with common items found around or outside the house. And they’re sure to help you get in the holiday spirit this Thanksgiving season.

Edible Centerpiece

What better way is there to eliminate waste from a Thanksgiving decoration than to eat it? Many fruits and vegetables fit the color palette of the holiday, including apples, oranges, strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, and peppers.

Turkey appetizer tray
A turkey appetizer tray makes a snazzy Thanksgiving centerpiece. Image: Living

This great idea came from Living Create a turkey appetizer plate by layering vegetables on a platter. You might use carrots, celery, and red pepper slices for tail feathers; sliced peppers and cucumbers for a body; and an oval shaped vegetable for a head. Have fun with it!

For a dessert plate, use a mixture of different colored fruits, such as orange and tangerine slices, red berries and sliced apples, and mango and pineapple chunks. You can even add sugary treats such as chocolate or hard candies.

Make a Gratitude Tree

This project sets the stage for a gratitude activity for fall visitors or Thanksgiving guests. Collect small fallen branches from outside and place them in a vase or jar. Rescue some paper from your recycling bin and cut out little paper leaves or other shapes, and attach a piece of string to hang them on the “gratitude tree” like ornaments. Encourage guests to write a gratitude statement on a leaf, then take turns reading them out loud.

Pine Cone Place Cards

To add a rustic decoration to the dinner table, collect pine cones for this fun project. Write guest names on small pieces of paper and attach each one to a pine cone with some leftover ribbon, twine, yarn, or string.

DIY pine cone place cards
Pine cone place cards. Image:

Recruit Junior Artists

If there will be children at your Thanksgiving celebration, why not set up a kids’ craft table with materials they can repurpose into their own creations? Toilet paper rolls, scraps of fabric, egg cartons, cereal boxes, fall leaves, and bottle corks all make great materials.

Fall Colors Candle Jars

This fun DIY project from Viral Slacker will add a warm candlelight glow to your Thanksgiving celebration.

  1. Venture outside to collect colored fall leaves. Thin, malleable leaves will stick best to your jar.
  2. Press and dry the leaves before getting started if time allows. Make sure your jar is clean, as grease on the outside will make it difficult to get the leaves to stick.
  3. Coat the outside of the jar in glue diluted with a little water, using your fingers, a sponge, or a sponge brush.
  4. Apply a layer of leaves to the glue-coated jar and allow it to dry. You can continue adding layers of leaves —or colored tissue paper if desired — and top it off with another thin layer of diluted glue.
  5. Once dry, place a tealight candle inside.
DIY leaf candle holders
These candle jars provide a warm glow of fall colors glow to your home. Image: Viral Slacker

Thanksgiving Lantern

By attaching a wire, your candle jars can turn into lanterns. A lantern walk is a fun activity after a Thanksgiving meal, especially if there are children at your gathering. It is ideal to use a Mason jar or any jar with a decent lip to attach the wire.

  1. Pull 20-gauge wire around under the lip of the jar, form a hook, and pull the wire tight.
  2. Twist the short end of the wire so the wire loop around the lip is taut against the jar, forming a knot.
  3. Save a 10-inch section of wire to form the handle, using a couple inches to twist it around the opposite side of the first knot.

Festive Squash Bowls

This is a delightful way to serve appetizers, ideally using locally-harvested squash. Merely cut off the top of the squash and remove the seeds. Fill bowls with cheese slices, olives, fresh veggies, or dip. Peel and repurpose the squash bowls afterward to make your favorite squash dish.

Do you have your own favorite DIY projects for the holidays?

Feature image courtesy of Les Howard

Editor’s note: Originally published on November 25, 2015, this article was updated in November 2018.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.